Our View: Project delay blessing in disguise | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Project delay blessing in disguise

It's never good news when bids come in too high, but in the case of the Central Park Drive reconstruction project, we think it was actually fortuitous. The city received only one construction bid, and it was 25 percent higher than projected costs. In response, the city opted to postpone the road construction project until next year.

Plans for the project include new bike lanes, pedestrian crossings and a roundabout where Central Park Drive runs between Mount Werner and Pine Grove roads. The road is also scheduled to be realigned with traffic reduced to one lane in each direction, and sidewalk connections in the area will be improved.

The need for Central Park Drive improvements is apparent, but from the get-go, we questioned the project's timeline. With an Aug. 1 start date, major construction would have crippled traffic in and out of Steamboat Springs' busiest shopping center during one of Steamboat's key summer months. The scope of the project, with a three-month construction estimate, also had the potential to negatively impact businesses there, which in turn would affect city sales tax revenue.

Now that the project has been delayed, we hope city planners will work with business owners in that area to mitigate these impacts. This past June, before the project was delayed, city engineer Ben Beall said the city planned to hold a public meeting before construction began to educate the public about the project and its traffic impacts.

We think a forum of this type is a great idea, but we think a meeting with the actual business owners who will be affected by the project should be held before the project goes back out to bid a second time. The earlier these discussions are held, the more time businesses will have to prepare and plan for how they are going to work around traffic impacts.

Rather than starting construction next August, we'd like to see the project shovel-ready when the ski season ends next April. With a narrow construction window and a three-month construction timeline, there's no good time to disrupt traffic, but we think starting the project earlier in the summer so it can be completed by mid-June would have less impact on tourism and the revenue it generates.

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The city also needs to take another look at the project's request for proposal and consider rewriting it, so the contractor can work crews at night. This option would most likely increase the project's price tag, but in the long run, it would be worth it. Traffic issues would be minimized when work is done during the overnight hours, and depending on whether or not crews worked around the clock, the construction time line could potentially be cut in half.

We like the Central Park Drive project, and we're hopeful by restarting the bidding process, the city will attract competitive bids and have time to refine the RFP with an eye toward speeding up the project timeline and minimizing traffic impacts during the busy summer tourism season.

At Issue

The Central Park Drive reconstruction project has been postponed until 2016

Our View

The delay gives city planners time to rethink their construction plan to start the project earlier and allow work at night to minimize traffic impacts