Back to the Drawing Board for Highway 73 Construction
Jefferson County will ask the community for input virtually in mid-September about new plans to improve Highway 73 near downtown Evergreen now that the project has been delayed.
Mike Vanatta, director of the county’s Transportation and Engineering Division, told the Jeffco commissioners during a staff briefing on Aug. 29 that he is planning to revamp the project to make it more palatable for Evergreen drivers and potential contractors.
Jeffco had planned to start a complex 22-month-long, $11 million project this fall to widen Highway 73, add a bike lane and a pedestrian trail, improve safety at the intersection with Buffalo Park Road and improve flood controls.
Now, Vanatta plans to break the project into two parts with work taking place from April to November in 2024 and 2025. While there will be traffic delays, he hopes to minimize them.
Vanatta must keep the majority of the project scope to keep the $8.75 million grant it has received from the Federal Highway Administration. Jefferson County's share is estimated to be $2.19 million.
“This first phase will provide a multi-use sidewalk along this route, provide turn lanes, one bike lane going south and replacing the bridge at Little Cub Creek intersection, which needs to be replaced regardless because of its poor condition,” Vanatta said.
Projects in the second phase have not been determined yet, he said.
About 25,000 cars travel that area of road, and improvements are necessary for safety, especially in case of evacuation because of wildfire, Vanatta has said.
It’s been 23 years since Evergreen has seen extended construction near downtown. In 2000, the Colorado Department of Transportation made improvements and widened the intersection of Highway 73/74.
Reaction and details
Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper praised Vanatta for hearing the many complaints from Evergreen residents who waited for as long as 45 minutes to get through Evergreen thanks to both the Highway 73 utility work and the Evergreen Parkway detour because of the Evergreen Park & Recreation District’s trail construction. She was pleased he was taking drivers’ ability to get through town into consideration as he revises the plans.
With Evergreen Parkway open again and the utility work nearly completed, Evergreen drivers should be able to traverse the area nearly slowdown free most of the time. The utility work needed to be done before any construction could take place on Highway 73.
Dahlkemper said downtown business owners would appreciate sidewalks on part of Highway 73 into downtown Evergreen to improve safety and ADA accessibility for the people who park along the road, especially on weekends.
Vanatta hopes to shave some parts of the reconstruction plan, so it can be completed in two seven-month periods.
Vanatta told commissioners he hopes to get public comment before the consultant revises the plans, so they can be sent to CDOT for approval. He hopes to advertise for bids in January.
“It’s a tight window, and a lot of things will be moving fast,” he said.
He said the contractor would be required to keep two lanes of traffic moving from 5:30-8:30 a.m. and from 3-6:30 p.m. to allow school and commuter traffic through.
Dahlkemper asked that Jeffco officials meet with downtown business owners and other community leaders to explain the revised project. She also said flaggers to help keep traffic moving also were important.
Vanatta explained that Xcel removed the flagger at Highway 73 and Buffalo Park Road after drivers became volatile.
“Hopefully on (the revised project) we won’t have to worry,” Vanatta said.
In early August, Jefferson County announced it was delaying Highway 73 construction because of a perfect storm.
The county did not get bids for the project, and Vanatta believes it’s because the project was so large, included winter work and the request for bids went out in the spring after most construction companies already accepted jobs.
Vanatta also became concerned that bids would come in over $11 million, and he didn’t want to use additional county funds to pay for the project. With two seven-month projects, Vanatta can request bids twice rather than once.
~The Canyon Courier