End in sight for downtown Rifle construction

Traffic flows on East Third Street in downtown Rifle on Wednesday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Third Street is now open. Traffic is flowing. Parking is available.

Downtown construction in Rifle is nearing completion.

“Just bear with us one more month,” Kirk Knowles, owner of KSK Construction Inc, said. “We are so close. We really do see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Operations at this point are now unfolding between Third and Fifth streets, causing Railroad Avenue to once again close to motor vehicle traffic. Railroad Avenue was previously reopened to traffic in late July, just in time for the Garfield County parade procession to roll down the street.

Now that contractors have finished major operations throughout Third Street, the reestablished closure of Railroad Avenue — Rifle’s main thoroughfare — will likely last until mid October, Knowles said.

“We need to finish the storm water line,” Knowles said. “Then we need to do the beautification like we did on Third (Street) on Railroad (Avenue) from Third to mid-block Fourth (Street).”

Knowles said work between Third and Fifth streets consists of concrete paving, which is scheduled for Oct. 14. After, hot mix asphalt will be added while tie-ins will be completed throughout the downtown area. The tie-ins, a process of connecting asphalt with concrete roadway, are scheduled for Oct. 18-19, Knowles said.

“Once that’s done, we bring in the pavement marking and finish up punch-list items and get the heck out of your way,” Knowles said.

The only obstacle potentially standing in the way of Railroad Avenue reopening on that slated Oct. 10 date is pavement striping procedures.

“I’d kind of like to keep it closed for the pavement marking so that we’re not striping under traffic,” Knowles said. “It all depends on that scheduling. We’ve got to get those puzzle pieces to fit in and figure out who’s where and what’s happening. We need to get some people out of the way of others and get other people in, and they can’t come in until certain things are done. So, it’s a real jigsaw puzzle piece at this point, making sure that that timing all comes together.”

Knowles said the project has also recently encountered material delays for the fascia for the planter walls. That material should be in between Sept. 17-21, Knowles said. That provides about four weeks to get that material installed.

KSK was originally hired for $3.8 million to complete the massive rehabilitation project, which includes making a number of infrastructural improvements around the downtown area. Construction began in March and was allotted 200 total days to complete.

Despite the allotted 200 days, anticipated opening dates specific to Railroad Avenue throughout the course of the project have varied. After Railroad Avenue reopened temporarily in late July, Rifle City Council voted to keep it open in order to maintain flowing traffic through the area. The decision extended the expected project completion date by about 14 days.

Rifle City Council Member Clint Hostettler, who’s been consistently vocal about seeing this project end sooner than later, said on Tuesday that he just wants to “see it done, period.”

“I hear complaints from the community, for sure. That goes without saying,” he said. “And it’s mostly from the businesses that are impacted. I’m as frustrated as everyone else and maybe even more. But construction is what it is.”

Throughout the past six months the city of Rifle has voted to provide financial subsidies to any businesses affected by downtown construction.

In June, the city put up $75,000 from its general fund in an effort to support downtown businesses that experienced losses in revenue.

In August, the city allotted another $70,000 from its general fund to help downtown businesses affected by the revitalization project.

“We’ve done everything we can to help small businesses,” Hostettler said. “Having Third Street open is great.”

Don Locke, owner of Rifle Lock & Safe and Rifle Vacuum Shop, reported in May losing between 75-85% in revenue due to downtown construction.

On Tuesday, Locke spoke to the bigger, overall picture of downtown commerce now that Third Street is open.

“People are shopping out of town,” he said. “There’s no place to shop downtown. It may be a nice place to walk, but there’s no place to walk to.”

Locke said his shop is one of the only retail walk-in shops located on the west side of Third Street.

“We need something here that people can consume,” he said. “Brick and mortars are disappearing.”

Locke said in relation to infrastructure alone, the project was money well spent.

“It’s positive all the way around,” he said. “Some of the ideas they came up with are debatable, but still it was money well spent.”

“It’s really nice to walk down here, but you’ve got to have a reason to walk down here,” he said. “There’s no reason to walk down here — there’s no retail.”

Hostettler, however, is hoping otherwise. He said the finished product is going to look spectacular.

“I think it will be a place more people will want to go,” he said. “It’ll be a good place to hang out and have a meal on the patios and sidewalks.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.