Finger Pointing Continues at Hwy 24 & Mtn View
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today 2019
“I’ve blown through there a couple of times and was like, ‘whoa!, I just blew that stop sign’ without even realizing it.”
“I like the four-way stop, it keeps things moving.”
“I’ve almost got hit there a couple of times now, you really have to watch out.”
“We consider this intersection to be extremely dangerous.” – The Leadville Mayor
These overheard conversations and communication concerning the Highway 24 and Mountain View Drive intersection have become increasingly alarming, especially after the winter weather moved in a few weeks ago. So Leadville Today (LT) decided to check in with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to find out what the status was concerning one of Leadville’s primary intersections.
That was early yesterday morning, December 11. Twenty-four hours later at 8 a.m. this morning, the intersection was now the scene of a two-car accident, with heavy vehicle damage and an all-hands-on-deck emergency response call, but thankfully no serious injuries have been reported. But before this morning’s accident, LT had already begun its investigation, reaching out to the project’s “partners,” trying to assemble the facts. What was the status of this intersection?
Leadville Today’s day-long communication exchange among the “partners” can only be described as bumpy, at best. That’s on nearly ALL fronts, including a disconnected contact phone number for the project, a recently distributed emergency contact number for the media that is now being used by a different department, email bounce backs from inactive accounts recently distributed to the media, and dead-end links due to simple misspellings. That said, here is LT’s discovery, to date, including responses from the parties and “partners” down on the corner.
The first step was to log on to the official CDOT web page for this project. The following message had recently been added to the page: “This project has been suspended for the winter season and will resume when weather permits, in April or May 2020.” Since there was no indication of when that the status was updated, LT looked back through its alert notices from CDOT. It’s something they provide to the media on their projects, much like the one provided recently about the Minturn Project (click here for more “suspended” news).
Since there didn’t appear to be any notice distributed to the media, LT called the phone number listed on the page; it was “disconnected and no longer in service.” Next step: try the email listed on the page: Could you please provide a more detailed status update regarding this project and a current contact phone number? Thank You.
While waiting on a response from CDOT officials, LT reached out to top law enforcement from the city and the county. After all, most of the complaints and concerns LT has been receiving had to do with public safety, traffic violations, and pedestrian close-calls. So, what was the status of this intersection? Here are the (unedited) responses that LT has received. All of them – except for the last – were received prior to this morning’s accident.
The Mayor’s Response
Leadville Mayor Greg Labbe: From a City of Leadville perspective, we are disappointed and dismayed that the intersection at Mountain View did not get completed. Technology Constructors was allowed to choose their own start date and set their own schedule. They scheduled the start for August 12th and the completion for October 8th. Clearly they have failed miserably to finish the project despite being notified repeatedly by the project engineer that TCI was falling progressively behind schedule. During that time there did not seem to be any sense of urgency or any attempt to bring their project back into scheduled time frames. In fact, the project engineer currently shows the project is only 52% complete and they stopped working quite some time ago. So despite the contractor’s inability or unwillingness to complete the job, they have requested an official “winter shutdown”.
We have no problem with them stopping their work, or lack thereof, through the winter months, but we have steadfastly refused to agree to an official winter shut down because, by CDOT definition, that would suspend the time in their contract with the City to complete the project. As it is, by contract, they have until February 23rd to complete and if they do not, liquidated damages will be sought by the City at a rate of $2300 per day until such completion takes place. They want to be let off the hook for their incompetence, but we feel strongly that their failure to perform under the terms of their contract with us should not be rewarded.
Which brings us to the current state of that intersection. The contractor, Technology Constructors, was given the option of putting up the new mastheads in the intersection and putting them on a timer system through winter. They chose not to do that but instead put up three stop signs. As it turns out those stop signs were too small and not reflective, so did not meet CDOT standards. Since TCI was slow to respond to that issue, the City of Leadville Street Department, with the cooperation of County Road and Bridge, replace the three stop signs with larger, reflective signs and put reflective discs on the ploes. Additionally Road and Bridge placed highway message boards facing both the North and South lanes of Hwy 24 to warn people that a three-way stop intersection was ahead. Unfortunately, despite those efforts, people are running the stop signs in that intersection. Yesterday (Dec.10) we put amber flashing beacons on top of the poles to help make sure drivers are seeing the stop signs. This morning (Dec.11) I received permission from CDOT to purchase and install stop signs with flashing LEDs. We will try to get those ordered today and get them up as soon as possible. We plan to order four so there will be one in each direction and one extra that we hope to place in the median facing traffic coming in from the North as that appears to be by far the most cars running the stop signs.
As you can tell, we consider this intersection to be extremely dangerous and are not willing to wait around for the contractor to take their sweet time resolving these issues. We will deal with the responsibilities and cost after the fact, but right now we will try everything we can to make the intersection safer through the winter. I know of only one accident in that intersection but have asked the Police Department to give me a report on any reported issues so that we have a better understanding of what has transpired.
Along the same lines, I called Technology Constructors yesterday and have asked for a meeting this week with a company principal to discuss their responsibility in all of this. We have talked with that person and he will set a meeting in Arvada for the second half of next week. I am happy to go meet with them if we can resolve our issues and assure that the project can be accomplished in a timely manner, even if that is next spring.
To answer your questions more directly; the current stop signs will be in place through winter; the intersection is in the City’s jurisdiction; there has been an elevated danger to the intersection from people running those stop signs despite considerable efforts; and we are taking the lead on resolving ongoing communication issues between CDOT, Technology Constructors, Koehler Engineering, Xcel and the City of Leadville.
The CDOT Response
Stacia Sellers, Media Contact for CDOT Region 3: This project, which began on August 12, is a partnership between the City of Leadville, High Country Developer, LLC, and the Colorado Department of Transportation to improve safety and mobility at the intersection. The work is replacing existing signals and making additional improvements that will support all modes of travel, as well as providing new accesses for a new development east of the intersection.
To date, the project has removed and installed new sidewalk, curb and gutter on the west side; made drainage improvements; constructed curb ramps on the west side; and installed conduit. As the existing signals and poles have been removed, safety at the intersection will be maintained through the winter with a continued three-way stop – signs have been installed and will be removed next spring once the new signal is activated.
This project is scheduled to be complete in 2020. The City of Leadville is managing the project and CDOT provided funding, so all other questions regarding the management and specific work of the project should be directed to Leadville. Hope this helps answer your question. Thank you!
NOTE: At one point in the communication, City Administrator Sarah Dallas is brought into the discussion by CDOT, being identified as “Leadville’s Project Manager for this Project.”
The City Administrator Response
Leadville City Administrator Sarah Dallas: I can give you as up to date information that I currently have regarding the intersection project. Some quick timelines and facts of the project to date. The City of Leadville is in agreement with CDOT as an official local government project to avail the intersection of some funding from CDOT.
The amount CDOT is contributing is $592,255, and High Country Developers will fund the remaining amount. The City of Leadville has a contract with High Country Developers (HCD) that indicates all costs above and beyond what CDOT contributes will be paid by HCD.
The contract was awarded in April of 2019, and the official notice to proceed went out in May of 2019. The contractor was selected through the CDOT bid process as they have to adhere to which awards to the lowest bidder of the project. In this case, the project was awarded to Technology Constructors Inc. out of Arvada. The contractor engineer or project coordinator selected was Koehler Engineering.
Koehler Engineering engineers and reviews the project, receives all documentation and submits all invoices for payment to the City to be paid and seek reimbursement. Primarily their job is to ensure that the project is completed, meets all standards, and complies with CDOT regulations for the duration of the project. They are the professional construction administrative services of the project.
In the original bid package, there was the language for the contractors (TCI) to select an official start date. They chose August 12th as that date. They were then given a completion date of 195 days from that date chosen to complete the project.
Everything seemed to be on track until mid-late October. We, as a City, are working through the facts on the issues that came up. The problems include some improper depth of buried undergrounding Xcel utility lines at the intersection for the Railyard subdivision project as well as access to paving materials and some other limitations that came up in October that prevented the project from being able to permanently pave and erect the ordered and delivered utility poles for the traffic signal.
All that to say, we are trying along with all the parties to figure out clarity within the contract to move this project forward during the official winter shut down, demobilization, and remobilization to complete this intersection early next spring. We are told the project is 52% completed and needs another month to be completed once the utility issues with Xcel are remedied and weather permits.
Safety issues for the official winter shut down have been the major issue we’ve been working as a city to resolve the past 4-5 weeks. The Mayor has worked with the Leadville Street Dept. and Lake County Road & Bridge to come up with interim solutions for the stop signs at the intersection which have included reflectors, better signs, message boards, and now as of today (Dec.11) some flashing lights to the tops of the stop signs. There is more permanent winter shut down stop signs that the Mayor is pricing out to get installed above the safety improvements that have been made to date. It is undetermined how these ultimately will be paid for, but the Mayor wants them ordered and installed and deal with the cost logistics at a later time.
CDOT released a project update (LT note: not to the media) in early November, which we have placed on our front page of the City’s website. The indicated 24/7/365 contact through the duration of the winter shut down is TCI, and the named individual is Paul Pineda, Superintendent (720) 933-3115; firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve also been told that the project has a public information bid item (from CDOT) that will include the winter shutdown period. What we have to get is clarity from the project engineer, Koehler, through a work order to continue the service and get this on track. This issue and others were not anticipated in the original scope of work and are one of many we are working to resolve through negotiations of the costs associated with the winter shut sown of the project.
In summary, details continue to be finalized for the points of contact, duration, timelines, and contract increases with all parties involved. It is unfortunate that this project was not completed this summer/fall, and we will continue to work diligently to get the intersection completed this next spring.
The Police Chief Response
Leadville Today has received no response – to date – from Leadville Chief Police Saige Bertolas who was also contacted on Wednesday morning, nearly 24 hours prior to this morning’s accident. Some of LT’s questions to the top law enforcement officers for the city and county included:
- Is this intersection in your jurisdiction?
- Can you speak to a reported increase in traffic accidents, and incidents at the intersection?
- How is your department working with the named Project Partners (CDOT, the City of Leadville and Technology Constructors, Inc.) to assure the safe passage of pedestrians and vehicles as the snow and ice conditions of winter come on?
Lake County Sheriff Response
“These questions would be better posed to the police department. This is there jurisdiction and they would have the data your looking for. Amy”
Leadville Today will continue to follow up on this story hopefully bringing High Country Developers, Technology Constructors Inc. (which appears to have NO digital footprint?) and Xcel Energy into the discussion. LT encourages readers to plug into the conversation on LT’s Facebook Page; share your story HERE. In the meantime, be sure to buckle up out there, because when it comes to the intersection of Highway 24 and Mountain View Drive, it looks like Lake County residents and visitors are on their own when it comes to public safety.