By: Rusty McDaniel – Assistant County Engineer forLarimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III
You’ve probably heard of the 4 seasons we have here in Colorado: almost winter, winter, just past winter and construction! All over Larimer County both inside and outside city limits we encounter road construction. It’s frustrating for everyone and there are many questions we all ask. Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III asked Assistant County Engineer Rusty McDaniel to write the article this month and explain why we have so much construction going on all at once. Here is what he says.
The large amount of road construction going on in unincorporated Larimer County is due mainly to two factors. First, there are several large projects that have been in the planning and design phase the past several years. Most of these projects were funded in part with federal grants that had construction timelines that needed to be met. The second cause is the recovery effort from the 2013 flood. The flood has increased our design and construction efforts significantly the past two years and will continue for another 1 – 2 years. Prior to the flood, capital improvement projects averaged around $7 million a year. The past two years they have averaged around $30 million.
For citizens in the area just north of Fort Collins there is an abundance of road construction, last year it was in north Loveland. The State, County, and City of Fort Collins all received federal grants with spending timelines for improvements in the area and those timelines as well as the construction seasons for roads and bridges made for a busy year. There have also been several major projects undertaken by utility companies in the area the last two years.
A lot of behind the scenes effort goes into getting a road or bridge replaced. The upfront planning and design process takes at least as long and often times longer than the actual construction. Construction is an involved process that includes utility coordination, and scheduling for the contractors and their crews, as well as the subcontractors and suppliers. Some of the construction steps can be accelerated but at a cost. Every project is scrutinized for the best way to build it at the most reasonable cost to the taxpayers. The aim is for balance, considering the number of people impacted, length of the delay and length of detour. We drive the same roads you do and feel the same frustrations and the impacts.
The joke is there are two seasons in Colorado, winter and construction; the reality is that construction is year-round. Bridge work mostly occurs in the winter when the rivers have less water and the irrigation ditches aren’t running. Paving season is generally between April and October.
There is always an end in sight with a new beginning right around the corner. Flood recovery efforts will eventually be completed and the projects on the north end of Fort Collins will finish up. But in due time mother nature will present us with a new challenge like the 2012 High Park Fire and 2013 flood. As long as Northern Colorado continues to grow and people keep driving, riding bikes, and walking on our roads and bridges there will be repairs and improvements needing to be made. Our goal is to continue to make our transportation system safer and more efficient for everyone who uses it.
Rusty McDaniel, Larimer County Assistant County Engineer