City Council actions pave way for Estes ‘loop’ deals – Loveland Reporter-Herald
Ten years after it was first proposed and more than 5 1/2 years after it was approved by a divided city council, the construction of the one-way downtown Estes Park ‘loop’ is about to go through the works. ‘tender.
Greg Muhonen, director of public works for Estes Park, told BizWest on Thursday that he expects the city to issue bids by September, with construction expected to begin in January. In the “best-case scenario”, he said, construction could take 18 months and be completed by the summer of 2024.
Escalating cost estimates had pushed back the planned completion date to the fall of 2025, prompting the city council to take two steps on Tuesday to shorten the deadline. The council approved extending the allowed duration for construction noise from 14 to 24 hours if certain criteria are met, and provided an additional $500,000 to secure matching federal funds.
Downtown Estes Park often experiences daunting summer traffic jams as tourists heading to Rocky Mountain National Park follow the US 36 route toward the Beaver Meadows Park entrance.
As part of the Downtown Loop plan, westbound US 36 traffic toward the park will use its currently designated route – west along Elkhorn Avenue through Downtown Shops and of tourist restaurants, then south and west on Moraine Avenue – but eastbound US 36 will be diverted at the Moraine Avenue curve through a new roundabout on West Riverside Drive, through a new bridge over the Big Thompson River at Ivy Street, then north on East Riverside Drive to reconnect with Elkhorn east of downtown.
With actions approved by the city on Tuesday, Muhonen said, the next steps will be to finalize the design specifications for the project, then post the project for tenders, establish dates when tenders will be taken, “and , if bids are within budget, award an award to the appropriate bidder.”
The city’s noise ordinance prohibited construction work between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The noise ordinance review, Muhonen said, came after an assessment of night construction versus daytime construction, and it was determined that working at night had less of an impact overall. another year of disruptive daytime work. One of the main contributors to the decision, he said, “is a restriction that does not allow the contractor to close the highway during our busy summer season.
“We fully understand that there would be adverse effects on neighbors,” Muhonen said, “but we also know that working over multiple years would be another frustration.”
Muhonen originally proposed to notify all residents living within a 500 meter radius of nighttime noise before construction, but the council amended the ordinance to increase the notification radius to 1,000 meters.
Muhonen pointed out that the noise ordinance review simply allows construction overnight. “It’s not a mandate or a directive,” he said, “It’s just to remove a regulatory hurdle that prohibited the option. How often will this happen? We do not know yet.
The city council‘s other action on Tuesday, the $500,000 injection, will leverage an additional $3.5 million grant offered by the Federal Highway Administration, which will also provide an additional $1 million due to the additional contribution of the city.
Muhonen pointed out that “the cost of labor has increased dramatically” as he asked the city for additional money, noting the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, soaring fuel costs and headline inflation. When initially approved in late fall 2016, the loop was expected to cost $17.2 million. By 2021, it had risen to $22.58 million, Muhonen said, and today it stands at $30.8 million.
The Federal Highway Administration was willing to make the additional federal funds available, provided the local agency pays 17.2% and the federal land access program covers the rest, Muhonen said. FLAP funds projects that help ease traffic to attractions such as national parks.
“You can’t put the project up for competition until you demonstrate you can afford it,” Muhonen said.
The acquisition of all rights of way and easements has already been completed, he said, including eight full properties and 28 easements. “It took a long time,” he said. “They all had to be assessed and negotiated.
“It will take more than overnight construction to get this done quickly,” Muhonen said. Other details include offering a $1 million early completion incentive to the winning contractor, getting the Colorado Department of Transportation to allow some daytime closures on portions of the route during the city’s less busy “shoulder seasons” and the completion of the roundabout at the intersection of Moraine and Riverside.
“We hope that if these accommodations are used, we could take a year off and finish in the summer of 2024,” Muhonen said. “The best-case scenario for construction is 18 months.”
This article was first published by BizWest, an independent news agency, and is published under a license agreement. © 2022 BizWestMedia LLC.