Major decision day next week for Glenwood bridge project
State transportation commissioners are expected to decide next week whether to give the green light, and more importantly extra money, for the Highway 82/Grand Avenue Bridge project in Glenwood Springs to proceed in January as scheduled.
If not, it essentially means the project will have to wait a year before construction can begin.
Colorado Department of Transportation officials are in final negotiations with the pre-selected construction manager, general contractor (referred to as the CMGC), Granite/RL Wadsworth, to reach a contract price agreement for the construction phase of the project.
The joint venture has been part of the project planning and design process through the environmental assessment that concluded earlier this year, giving Granite/RL Wadsworth the inside track to win the construction contract.
Through the CMGC process, CDOT and the contracting firm have three rounds of negotiations to agree to a pricetag within 5 percent of the transportation agency’s independent cost estimate, explained Steve Olson, CDOT program engineer and project team member.
Project officials hope to wrap up negotiations by the time the Colorado Transportation Commission, sitting as the state Bridge Enterprise Board for purposes of considering the Glenwood project, meets in Greeley on Nov. 19, Olson said this week.
That’s when the project team will ask for extra Bridge Enterprise money to cover what’s expected to be a funding gap over and above the state’s $98.6 million budget established for the project in September 2014, Olson said.
“Hopefully by late on the 18th we will know what that amount is going to be,” Olson said.
Even within that 5 percent threshold, “we will need to go to the commissioners on Nov. 19 to ask for more money,” he said.
The other option before the transportation commissioners would be to advertise the project for competitive bids. That would mean a significant delay in the start of construction due to the need to build the causeway platforms in the Colorado River during the lowest river flow of the year.
“Due to those environmental constraints the project has to start in the winter,” Olson said. Whether that is this winter or next is essentially the question before the transportation commissioners next week.
A little more than a third of the Grand Avenue Bridge budget was for project planning and design, including costs associated with the lengthy public environmental review process.
When bridge enterprise money was originally allocated for replacement of the bridge four years ago, the construction budget was just under $60 million.
Overall, the project is now expected to exceed $115 million and could approach $120 million, based on recent representations.
CDOT has lined up about $17.3 million in additional funding commitments to cover extra costs associated with building the bridge on a new curved alignment to the Interstate 70 interchange. A new pedestrian bridge and elevator access to Seventh Street is also included with the project, as well as various aesthetic design treatments requested by city officials.
The extra funding includes $3 million each from the city of Glenwood Springs and Garfield County, and about $3.3 million in separate CDOT money that’s allocated for regional project prioritization. The five-county Intermountain Regional Transportation Planning committee last year gave top priority to the Grand Avenue Bridge project.
Project officials have worked to trim about $2.7 million from the bridge design, and are hoping that will sway the transportation commission to proceed with the project now rather than waiting to see what a competitive bidding process would yield.
CDOT Region 3 Director Dave Eller made a case for keeping the project on track in a memo to transportation commissioners for next week’s meeting.
“The risks associated with delay include construction cost escalation, loss of other CDOT and outside agency funding, increased design costs required for repackaging [bid specs], loss of stakeholder support … and additional risk with project award to a contractor who has not been involved in the project development and may not understand the complexity and context of the project,” Eller wrote in the memo.
If the project is given the go-ahead to proceed, CDOT officials plan to reassemble a group of local stakeholders, including civic and business leaders, to help oversee the planned two-year bridge construction.
CDOT plans to use the west end of the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool parking lot as a staging area for the project, and will close the west access to North River Street. The first phases of construction would include the causeways, or construction platforms, in the river that will be used to build the bridge piers.
Also among the first phases of construction will be the installation of a temporary pedestrian walkway on the existing Grand Avenue Bridge that will be used while the existing pedestrian bridge is removed and the new one built. The new pedestrian bridge will also be used to relocate utilities that currently run beneath the highway bridge.
Under the proposed construction schedule, the existing bridge will continue to carry Highway 82 traffic until mid- to late-August 2017, when it would be demolished to make way for the final segment of the new bridge. That’s when the anticipated three-month detour would be in place from I-70 Exit 114, along Midland Avenue and back to Grand Avenue via an extension of Eighth Street west of Glenwood City Hall.
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