Over budget by $2.5M, construction for new transit hub at Aspen’s Paepcke Park will begin | PostIndependent.com

Over budget by $2.5M, construction for new transit hub at Aspen’s Paepcke Park will begin

Inflationary costs in the construction industry and a labor shortage resulted in only one bid for the downtown Aspen bus stop

Improvements to the second busiest bus stop in Aspen will be made this year, despite that the project has increased from $1.9 million to $4.4 million.

The Paepcke Transit Hub project at Main and Garmisch streets was supposed to be built last fall, but no contractors bid on the project in June 2021.

The city went out for bid again in September and it received only one bid and that was Gould Construction, according to project manager Mike Horvath.

He and other staff members recommended to Aspen City Council on Monday that the city move forward on the project regardless of the inflated costs because delaying it would mean losing $800,000 in Colorado Department of Transportation grants, which expire next year.

What’s more, current conditions at the intersection are unsafe for pedestrians and the bus stop infrastructure is subpar, according to officials.

“There are a lot of user groups in this area,” Horvath said.

During their work session earlier this week, council members agreed and gave their blessing to move forward with the project.

“I know you guys have tortured thoughts over what to do or not to do but this is one that’s going to have the most public awareness of the improvements and affect more people’s lives in my mind,” Councilwoman Rachel Richards said. “I think this is long overdue and as much as anything, pedestrian safety here bothers me.”

The increased costs are part of disruptions in the supply chain, as well as labor shortages in the industry, according to Scott Miller, the city’s public works director.

“I’m sure it’s not breaking news that we have pretty severe inflation not only in this valley but in the region and in the country and especially in the construction industry,” he said. “That has hit home for us on this project and others we’ve had.

“We’ve had projects where we’ve had one or two bids and we’ve had projects where we’ve had no bids,” he continued. “So, the discussion about labor costs is important but if you can’t get people to do the work it doesn’t matter.”

Looking at national trends, overall construction is up 8.4% and building costs are up 14.9% over the last year, which include materials and labor.

Studying specific materials, asphalt is up 19.3% and concrete is up 17.5%.

Skilled, experienced labor is up 2.9% over the last year, and staff has received local feedback that it’s difficult to find and keep currently in the Roaring Fork Valley, according to Miller.

“Actual bids in town and in this valley, the trajectory is pretty severe,” he said, noting that the resurfacing project that CDOT is doing on Highway 82 this summer is as much as 154% higher than what engineers estimated. “They received the highest unit pricing of asphalt in the history of any CDOT project.”

Councilman Ward Hauenstein said what upsets him is that concrete for the Paepcke project is $510 a square foot and it’s $245 a square foot for the roundabout project that CDOT is doing beginning this month.

“I don’t understand why there is such a discrepancy on construction at the same time, I guess it’s beyond understanding,” he said. ”It’s a hard pill to swallow and by doing this we are contributing to the rampant inflation.”

Pitkin County officials decided earlier this year to not pursue improvements planned at the Brush Creek Park and Ride due to escalated costs — almost 200% higher than originally estimated.

The city will make up the $2.5 million budget shortfall for the Paepcke Transit Hub by deferring just over $1.1 million in other projects, and staffers will ask for $1.3 million in this spring’s supplemental budget request in which the transportation and asset management funds will split the cost.

When the project does begin, the major improvements at the outbound bus stop across from Paepcke Park on Main Street are planned to create a safer, more comfortable location.

It will include a bus shelter that could fit as many as 30 people, as well as real-time transit signage and other amenities.

Currently that bus stop, which serves all outbound buses, has just a three-person bench and a trash can.

The Main Street pedestrian crossing at Garmisch Street will get an upgrade with a center island as a refuge, as it is one of the busiest non-signaled crossings in the city.

Pedestrians are required to cross five lanes of traffic on Main Street, and loading buses and vehicles can impair visibility, according to city officials.

The project also will feature a bus pull-off area on Garmisch just south of the Molly Gibson Lodge and alley that will allow people to disembark and step onto a sidewalk that will lead them to a mid-block pedestrian crossing.

Currently, buses come to a stop in the street at the lodge’s parking lot, and people disembarking must step onto the street and then walk across to catch a sidewalk.

Mayor Torre said it’s time for pedestrians to feel safe at that intersection no matter the cost.

“This is a hard one but an important one,” he said.


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