Careful with those rocks!
COSMIX workers hand-remove historic WPA wall
Amid the noise and size of the COSMIX I-25 widening work, a small, delicate part of the project was completed this month - the rock-by-rock dismantling of part of
the old Works Progress Administration (WPA) wall just east of I-25 off Colorado Avenue.
Crews with project contractor Rockrimmon Constructors pulled nearly 950 rocks from the wall; they'd been hand-laid by government-hired WPA workers along the west bank of Monument Creek in the 1930s. Because the wall was deemed historic in the Environmental Assessment for the I-25 widening, each of those rocks must be documented and stored on palettes, according to Bill Badger of Rockrimmon.
The rocks had to be removed because heavy construction machinery needs to get in the area just east of Colorado Avenue as part of the widening work there.
The affected segment is about 6,000 square feet in size, or 1 percent of the entire wall, he said. When the machinery is gone, a 3,100-square-foot/500-rock portion of the wall will be restored - with the stones “reset to their previous locations,” according to Rockrimmon's contract with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). The other 450 rocks, still historic but no longer needed because of interstate-related bank configuration changes, will be stored by the city, Badger explained.
CDOT engineer James Flohr has previously explained that the widening design minimized impacts to the wall and the creek. This will become evident during construction in the way the east side of the widened interstate is cantilevered over the creek instead of having support pillars underneath it. “This is an upgrade in costs, so it's rarely done,” Flohr said. “We're willing to spend extra money to protect the wall and creek features.”
The process of removing the rocks started with heavy equipment smacking against the ground above and below the wall to loosen them. After that, “a group of guys pulled them out by hand,” Badger said. “It was all documented, real detailed, to meet the historic criteria.”
Palettes holding the rocks that will go back into the wall sit in the Rockrimmon Constructors yard off Colorado Avenue. The rocks that will not be reused have been temporarily placed on palettes in the parking lot outside the former site of the Westside's Drive In Liquors store.
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