Downtown Steamboat construction a bumpy topic |

Downtown Steamboat construction a bumpy topic

Mike Lawrence

Gravel fills in a utility trench dug across Yampa Street near the Howelsen Place construction site in downtown Steamboat Springs. Debris caused by construction is spurring debate about impacts to downtown, in the midst of summer tourism season.

— Asphalt shortages and city regulations – not contractor negligence – are causing loose gravel near downtown construction sites, a construction official said Monday.

Jim Kohler, vice president of Calcon Constructors, was responding to comments made last week by Steamboat Springs City Councilman Ken Brenner, who said the Howelsen Place project on Seventh Street is an example of how construction is negatively impacting downtown businesses and streetscapes in the midst of summer tourism.

“We are not adequately screening these construction sites,” Brenner said a week ago. Later in the week, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said construction is turning downtown Steamboat into “a war zone.”

Kohler said Monday that his staff of 30 to 40 workers is making the best of conditions and city regulations already in place.

“Asphalt up here is a month-and-a-half to two months away,” Kohler said. “We made every attempt to use concrete or flowfill while we wait for the asphalt.”

Flowfill is a lean form of concrete that can be used to temporarily fill trenches – such as those dug into Seventh and Yampa streets for utility work – and then removed for permanent asphalt. Kohler said city officials were concerned that flowfill inadvertently left in a trench could lead to long-term asphalt weakness or damage, a situation Kohler called “a viable concern.”

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So gravel was used instead.

“We sweep those streets every night, but it doesn’t take many cars going across the gravel trenches to spread it again,” Kohler said.

As for asphalt, Kohler said large-scale road projects on Rabbit Ears Pass are getting priority from the two local suppliers.

“All the little stuff plays second fiddle to the big stuff,” Kohler said. “We’ve had asphalt on order since June.”

Jim Weber, the city’s director of public works, said miscommunications and misunderstandings among contractors, subcontractors and city officials led to the ongoing gravel debris lingering at Yampa and Seventh streets.

“Everybody is under a gun to get something done,” Weber said of construction projects across Steamboat. “And the limited supply of materials and personnel is an issue that we all have to deal with. :The bottom line is, on a lot of those projects the general contractors need to pay attention to the permits they have been issued and pay attention to what their subcontractors are doing.”

Brenner also questioned the uncovered chain-link fences at Howelsen Place.

Kohler said the fences are not yet covered with green mesh because doing so requires bolting the fences to the street in a semi-permanent fashion, which his staff has avoided to allow for flexibility in fence locations.

“The wind will blow the fence right over once you have mesh on it,” Kohler said. “For the first two months of our project, every night and weekend we pulled the fence back in to allow for parking – now that we’re into construction we can’t do that anymore.”

Kohler said that, like asphalt, two primary local suppliers of rock and sand utilize quarries west of downtown Steamboat Springs.

“All of those trucks have to come through town,” he said. “That’s a huge traffic issue.”

There’s no end to the traffic in the near future.

“On my project alone, we will have over 2,000 truckloads of rock and sand,” Kohler said. “We’re only a third of the way through that, probably.”