Groundbreaking for westbound PPSL set for Thursday

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By Corinne Westeman

Work on the westbound peak-period shoulder lane will begin this month, once again complicating the Interstate 70 corridor between the Veterans Memorial Tunnels and Empire Junction.

The project’s official groundbreaking is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the city parking lot behind the businesses at the 1500 block of Miner Street in Idaho Springs.

All the heavy civil work for the westbound PPSL, which will function like its eastbound counterpart, is scheduled to be done by ski season 2020-21, and the lane should be open for use by Memorial Day weekend 2021, Colorado Department of Transportation representatives said.

While the contract states civil work must be completed by February 2021, CDOT Engineer Steve Harelson said the agency has offered the contractor, Graham Construction, an innovative early completion bonus if all the heavy civil work is done by November 2020.

After the civil work is done, crews will be conducting electrical testing for the lane, Harelson explained during a CDOT quarterly update with the county commissioners on July 2.

Both County Commissioner Randy Wheelock and Idaho Springs Mayor Mike Hillman told CDOT representatives that they appreciated how local stakeholders were allowed to be part of the permitting process. Both the county and Idaho Springs had to issue 1041 permits for the PPSL. The 1041 permits allow the local governments to keep control over projects even though the state is doing the work.

Wheelock said CDOT projects elsewhere in the state that hadn’t gone through that process had either been derailed or had run into problems. Thus, allowing local stakeholders to comment is important to a project’s overall success, he said.

Hillman said he believes the worsening traffic has hurt business in Idaho Springs, as people no longer want to risk getting off the highway to visit the city. However, he said, it seems the eastbound PPSL is working, even though it’s an interim solution, and the city is hoping to see the same type of success from its westbound counterpart.

Other projects

Also during CDOT’s quarterly update, Harelson and Region 1 Transportation Director Paul Jesaitis described several upcoming projects.

CDOT has opened bids for putting a sound wall along Interstate 70 at Silver Plume. Because the bids were higher than estimated, the agency will do an award-by-review process, and it has identified additional funding to cover the difference, Harelson said. Construction is planned for late summer or early fall.

The Loveland Pass resurfacing project was awarded to APC Southern, but crews are waiting for the road to dry out before paving can begin.

CDOT received one bid on the U.S. Highway 6 tunnel lighting project, and it came in 30 percent higher than estimated. Harelson and Jesaitis said the agency is going to repackage the project, which would repair lighting in the tunnels in Clear Creek Canyon and put it out to bid again this fall. If necessary, they said, CDOT will divide the project into the tunnels above and below the Highway 119 intersection, and put the segment above Highway 119 to bid and schedule the work for February.

For 2020 and beyond, CDOT plans to repave the Eisenhower Tunnel next summer. It will be a night project and should be invisible to traffic.

While the Georgetown-to-Empire resurfacing project is scheduled for spring 2021, Harelson said CDOT might push it back a year because of work on the westbound PPSL to avoid having to coordinate two contractors. He added that while the resurfacing project, which will be along both eastbound and westbound lanes, would be night work, it should be less painful for commuters. He estimated it would take crews four to five weeks to complete.

CDOT is trying to find the funding necessary to complete its environmental analysis for work on Floyd Hill. It has enough funds to get the environmental analysis work through the end of the year, but more will be needed after that.

While the commissioners believed that the recent projects along I-70 have helped with traffic congestion, Wheelock said he wants to push for the Floyd Hill project to receive its necessary funding and be completed.