Downtown Rifle business owners brace for major construction
The city begins work Thursday on a revitalization project that’s been in the works since early 2020.
Rifle City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously for a $3.8 million contract with KSK Construction Group of Grand Junction to address several infrastructure concerns underlined in the project.
Issues centered around the Third Street and Railroad Avenue area include failing drainage and asphalt as well as traffic accessibility. Business owners have reported in the past having to shovel out built-up water and ice at drainage areas.
New parking and landscaping, among other upcoming features, are also included in the final design.
To defray costs, the city has already received $1 million from the Department of Local Affairs, $200,000 from the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District and $350,000 from the Urban Renewal Authority for the project.
“I think it will be rough getting through it,” downtown retail business owner Mandy Whitt said. “But I’m not scared yet.”
Looking at the current state of downtown curbside appeal and infrastructure, however, Whitt acknowledged the benefits after project completion.
“Being downtown, you notice the shape of the sidewalk and road — there’s just cracks and bumps,” she said. “I feel like other towns near us have done a lot with their downtown, and I feel like it’s time.”
“They are run down, they’re old,” she added of the roads. “It’s nothing anybody did.”
Construction is slated to end some time in summer. The project will be undertaken incrementally to help minimize disruption to downtown storefronts. City officials continue to work with business owners to hash out favorable schedules.
“They stop in and ask for our opinion a lot,” Whitt said. “They’ve really been communicating with us every step.”
Guadalupe Hall, owner of downtown beauty salon Lovely Lola, said construction may affect traffic at her business.
“It may or may not,” she said. “The people that come to the salon will need to park in the other streets.”
Though Hall agrees the downtown could use the makeover, she was skeptical that it would help attract more prospective businesses.
“I’ve lived in this town for 30 years,” she said. “I don’t know what they can do to beautify it.”
City Manager Scott Hahn said work will begin with potholing, a method of construction involving jackhammers as well as a vacuum truck. The work, slated for the next 3-5 days, will occupy parking spaces on one side of the street.
Parking will reopen as work progresses, Hahn said.
Once potholing is complete, further construction will lead to occasional closures.
“Next, we will install the waterline beginning at the intersection of West Third and West Avenue,” Hahn said. “This will be a moving operation closing parking and traffic ½ block at a time and will move down Third Street to East Avenue. Some work on Railroad Avenue may be required to allow detours for this work.”
Storm drain, irrigation, electrical and surface restoration will follow behind the waterline installation, Hahn added. Sidewalk and store access should be unaffected except for during concrete pours.
“Wherever possible these pours will be made when businesses are closed,” he said. “Work on Railroad Avenue is more extensive and will involve a closure. This is largely due to the groundwater drains that must be drilled and the surface will be excavated nearly 3 feet.”
Although Third Street will remain open whenever possible, Railroad Avenue will be closed for much of the project, Hahn said. West and Whiteriver avenues are the recommended detours and will provide business access on Third, Fourth and Fifth streets.
Whitt’s final outlook on construction: She said might have to close down for a day or two.
“I guess I’m going to wait to see what they’re working on,” she said. “I hope they don’t start on my corner… Start somewhere else and I’ll have time to make a better plan.”
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