WAAP budget soars to $41 million; 'substantial completion' now seen in JuneDec. 14, 2018
A previous project manager once called the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP) a “nightmare” to work on.
That continues to be reflected in the project's cost and duration. For the second time this year, the WAAP budget just went up. Also, project completion has been extended to June 2019.
The expected cost now to complete the major reconstruction along Colorado/Manitou Avenue west of 31st Street - which includes a new bridge, underground
The multi-government project is being managed by El Paso County, in coordination with Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities and Manitou Springs.
Going into this year, the budget had been $30.9 million. The main funding comes from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) capital sales tax, under which WAAP is an A-list item.
The RTA board, consisting of elected officials from governments in the county, had OK'd a $4.6 million budget boost in March and, in August, was told by the project team to expect an even bigger spike later in the year.
Regarding duration, when the project started in December 2016, the estimate for completion had been the end of 2018. That was still the public statement until the middle of this year. The August advisory to the RTA predicted a May 2019 finish date, though with the qualifier that “substantial completion” would occur by the end of this year.
An 18-page memorandum to the RTA board from County Engineer Jennifer Irvine this December also uses the term "substantially completed,"
For motorists, as construction continues, the avenue west of 31st has become a gauntlet of flaggers, with long waits and traffic routinely reduced to one lane. In addition, Pikes Peak Avenue at Ridge Road has been closed to through traffic since early November, to allow work on a new “pedestrian plaza.” Reopening is not seen until February.
The new Adams Crossing Bridge over Fountain Creek at Columbia Road opened to two-way traffic in October, but the finishing touches require the demolition of the south half of the old bridge (no longer used), which won't occur until January, according to Brett Hartzell, who has been the county's project manager since August.
Other continuing project elements include creek channel improvements near the bridge, the Midland Trail underpass, utilities, storm drains, sidewalks, landscaping, paving overlay, signage, the plaza, a “pocket park” and pedestrian bridge near the Manitou arch and traffic signals at the avenue
Despite the delays and costs, Hartzell took an optimistic view, saying “I think this will be a great project when it's done.”
Irvine's memorandum speaks extensively to the $5.5 million budget increase request. The need is “primarily due to impacts associated with extended time to procure the needed right of way and easements as originally anticipated and also due to unforeseen site conditions and complex utility relocation issues,” she states.
In her comments to the RTA board, she elaborated that now only 7 property acquisitions or easements need to be obtained (out of about 100 initially).
Irvine's document itemizes how the $5.5 million is being dispersed among WAAP's three principal contractors. These are Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig-FHU (design), Jacobs (on-site management and inspection) and Wildcat (construction).
The largest share (just over $4 million) is going to Wildcat. According to Irvine's memorandum, the contractor needs to:
- Build a bigger water quality/detention pond than previously anticipated at Colorado and Ridge Road (because of stricter city requirements).
- Enhance the stabilization of theAdams Crossing Bridge by dealing with the “supersaturated clay soils” that have recently been identified there.
- Use ground heaters to allow paving and concrete flatwork in cold winter weather.
- Build new sidewalk (made necessary by unexpected “utility conflicts”) between 31st and 32nd streets.
- Spend more than previously anticipated to recognize “historical elements of the project,” including the Adams Crossing back story, via the pocket park, plaques and other features.
- Be paid for various other expenses related to working several months longer than originally planned.
Added to the Wildcat part of the budget is a contingency fund to cover “additional unknown and unforeseen costs,” the memorandum states.
The added allocations for FHU and Jacobs are also chiefly based on the extended project time frame, the memorandum shows.
The document traces the project's funding history back to the original RTA figure of $12.1 million in 2012, when the transportation authority was reapproved by voters. It was eventually discovered, as Irvine writes, that "those funds were insufficient."
At the March and August RTA board meetings, a few board members had grumbled about WAAP costs going up, but no such concerns were reiterated at the December meeting.
Asked afterward why he thought that was the case, Hartzell said he and others from the project team had discussed the cost issues in advance with staff from Manitou and Colorado Springs, and he assumed they passed this information along to their respective elected officials on the RTA board prior to the meeting.
“Definitely pleased” with the unanimous board support, Hartzell expressed confidence that this is the last budget increase the project will need. “We took a lot of time on it,” he said. “I don't want to have to come back.”
The $5.5 million is being transferred from a different county project, one earmarked to improve part of Academy Boulevard, which doesn't need that much money at this time, Irvine's memorandum points out.
Westside Pioneer article