David from Lafayette writes, “What’s driving you crazy? Jayson, can you check on why Castle Rock Construction has done absolutely nothing in their construction project in Lafayette along S. Boulder Road between Saratoga Drive and S. 120th Street. I guess they at least cut some weeds that are growing up through the gravel they put down last summer.”
It is so frustrating when you come across a construction project that seems to be stalled out and you aren’t seeing anyone working day after day after day. The project you are talking about in Lafayette was originally designed to widen that section of South Boulder Rd between 120th and Saratoga. The City also plans on building a new sidewalk, multi-use path and installing a new traffic signal at 120th.
During the early part of the construction process, work was going along as planned. S. Boulder Road was placed in a head-to-head configuration using the north side of the old road. That allowed workers to tear up and remove the existing roadway to the south, however, after they started digging, workers unearthed some unforeseen issues with the underground utilities and that has brought the project to a halt leaving that south side of S. Boulder Road in what seems like construction limbo.
I asked Debbie Wilmot, communications director for the City of Lafayette, what happened that stopped the progress that was being made.
“After uncovering the storm sewer and waterline crossings, the project team became concerned that building around the existing 50-year-old waterline could jeopardize the waterline. Additionally, given that the existing waterline is nearing the end of its useful life, the prospect of needing to replace it in the near future would require demolition of the soon-to-be newly constructed roadway elements. Therefore, the decision was made to proactively replace the waterline under S. Boulder Road," she said.
The revised plan consists of replacing approximately 3,200 linear feet of waterline under S. Boulder Road and adding some fire hydrants and valves for added redundancy and operational efficiency along the corridor. There will be some minor adjustments to the new storm sewer as well. The waterline design is currently in progress, with plan completion and approval scheduled for later this year.
The waterline is not the only issue the project team found under the old roadway. There are also numerous existing utilities that were discovered to be in conflict with the proposed improvements. One of the utility companies, Xcel Energy, is working right now to relocate their utilities. They estimate it might take them another month or so, depending on the weather, to get their part of the work done. The other third-party utility companies will also work to relocate their lines before the waterline work resumes.
Wilmot tells me while construction has been on hold intermittently for approximately 8 months due to the waterline redesign and utility conflicts, the work has not completely stopped.
“The project navigated around the project corridor to find areas where work could continue while the project and City management determined how to proceed," she said. "Crews continued work on other aspects of the project; 120th Street, the LaMont Does Park parking lot, City Center Circle, and Merlin Drive.”
Where does the project stand now?
The re-designed waterline plans are being drafted and are pending final approval with City management. Crews are anticipating starting work this week or next on the storm sewer pipe installation and grading work.
The original completion date was supposed to be spring of 2022. Wilmot tells me the new timeline is contingent on the current state of the economy, “as it has presented additional challenges in the form of labor and material shortages and has added to the time required for utility owners and contractors to respond to, and work within, the current market conditions to move the project forward."
While the new official completion date for the project is unknown, the project team anticipates all the work will be done in another year and a half, spring 2024.
“We understand the frustration that comes with construction and travel impacts, and we appreciate your continued patience and flexibility as we work to improve travel for all users along South Boulder Road and 120th Street,” she says.
All of this means that eastbound and westbound traffic will continue to use the head-to-head configuration while crews eventually install the new water line and storm sewer pipe. Westbound S. Boulder Road at Saratoga and Merlin drives will have one through travel lane and one left turn only travel lane. RTD bus riders who use the stop on S. Boulder Road at Robin Hood Street can catch the bus at the next stop on Sir Galahad Drive at S. Boulder Road. The sidewalk on the south side of S. Boulder Road from Saratoga Drive to 120th Street remains closed. Pedestrians and cyclists should follow sidewalk detour signage and use the sidewalk on the north side of S. Boulder Road.
Obviously, the new scope of the project will require more money to finish it. One third of the construction cost funding came from a series of Federal Technology Innovation Program (TIP) grants with the remainder split between the City and Boulder County sales tax. The total cost of these changes is currently unknown until final designs and construction drawings are solidified.
“While working through these issues, the construction schedule has been impacted, but this added scope will improve the integrity and longevity of the infrastructure for years to come,” Wilmot said.
Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes , Stitcher , Google Play or Podbean.