Downtown Rifle construction completion date pushed back until early November
Delay does not affect Oct. 15 Business After Hours event, however
A major construction project that’s closed off sections of Railroad Avenue and periodically hindered parking, foot traffic and commercial activity in downtown Rifle since March faces another delay, a contractor said Wednesday.
KSK Construction, which the city contracted for $3.8 million to fix infrastructure and beautify the downtown area, and subcontractor Martinez Western Constructors told Rifle City Council that construction likely won’t be substantially completed until Nov. 5.
KSK owner Kirk Knowles originally told City Council two weeks ago that Railroad Avenue, a main thoroughfare that cuts straight through downtown, would be opened by Oct. 13.
“There’s still a fair amount of things that we have to overcome before we start talking about putting traffic back on Railroad Avenue,” Western Constructors operator Paul Martinez said.
Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, the downtown area was already planning to usher in the end of construction by hosting a Business After Hours event on Oct. 15. Festivities, made possible via permitting obtained by the Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce, include live music, a beer tent and opportunities to meet downtown merchants.
“We can change it to a grand opening anticipation party,” council member Brian Condie joked.
The delay forced City Council in an awkward position Wednesday. Either cancel the event and likely frustrate many downtown businesses or still hold the event and likely frustrate many commuters.
With Railroad Avenue’s extended closure, and the Business After Hours event closing off traffic to Third Street, the likelihood of the situation exacerbating Friday evening rush hour traffic increases.
Since construction began, traffic has circumvented Railroad Avenue and the downtown area by using predominantly residential roads like Whiteriver and West avenues.
Public Works Director Brian Prunty said that holding the business after hours could be risky, but it’s a one-off event.
“It could work,” he said.
The city agreed to shut down Railroad Avenue at Centennial from about 4:30-7 p.m. Oct. 15. Officers with the Rifle Police Department are expected to direct traffic during this time, Rifle City Manager Tommy Klein said.
A HISTORY OF DELAY
In summer, the city was told the downtown section of Railroad Avenue, which has been essentially closed off to traffic throughout construction, would be paved and opened to traffic by the start of the Garfield County Fair parade in late July.
Knowles partly kept the promise but instead of concrete, road base was laid to temporarily open Railroad Avenue.
By mid-September, however, Railroad Avenue once again closed down due to construction activity between Third and Fifth streets.
Construction impacts have forced the city to offer subsidies to downtown businesses affected by the closure of Railroad Avenue and Third Street. Between June and August, the city put up $145,000 from its general fund to help downtown businesses.
On Wednesday, Martinez said recent inclement weather and unforeseen infrastructural modifications mean paving activities must be pushed back on the schedule.
“Unbeknownst to anybody involved with this project, did anybody know that we were going to run into a magnificent amount of conflicts with the new gas line,” Martinez said. “We literally had to relocate storm drain in numerous places.”
The project itself originally set out to replace the city’s aging drain system in the downtown area. Many storm drain pipes underneath Third Street and Railroad Avenue sustained holes.
Martinez said the plan moving forward depends on “bearing down and getting concrete on the ground.” While Knowles said in September completion of tie-ins — the process of connecting asphalt with concrete roadway — was scheduled for Oct. 18-19, Martinez said shipping for asphalt material has a “very limited window of when it can be here.” In other words, without asphalt, the process of connecting it with concrete is impossible.
“But we have a plan already in place of how we’re going to have the necessary concrete in place so that the asphalt can abut to it properly. Then we’ll do the concrete after the asphalt is completed,” he said. “We’ll fill in the concrete spots afterward, including bringing in a concrete pump to pump the intersection that we would not normally do, but we’ll do it so that we can accommodate the asphalt schedule.”
When it came to announcing the delays, Mayor Barbara Clifton expressed frustration over a lack of communication between contractors and the city.
“(Kirk) was the one that sat in here and told us it was Oct. 13, and we now have the chamber and several other businesses who have made plans, paid fees, hired bands, based on the fact that Kirk came in and told us that,” she said. “So we’re in a bit of a mess here.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or email@example.com.
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