Our view: Fix the planning, bidding process | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Fix the planning, bidding process

We were both relieved and gratified late last week to learn that the long-anticipated Central Park Drive renovation project — which was originally planned for and postponed from last year and has already been hobbled by two additional postponements this year — is finally poised to move forward, with work set to begin today.

Our view

The city should review its policies and procedures for planning and initiating such projects to ensure needless delays don't occur

However, when we consider the delays, both last summer and this year, we must question the city of Steamboat Springs' policies and procedures for planning and initiating major capital improvement projects such as the one on Central Park Drive.

The renovation will add new bicycle lanes, dedicated pedestrian crossings and a roundabout between Mount Werner and Pine Grove roads. At the same time, it will reduce traffic to a single lane in both directions, replace worn asphalt and improve sidewalk connections.

The project was originally slated for summer 2015, but planners announced last year the work would be postponed to 2016. Among the stated reasons for the delay was the challenge of se-curing easements and right-of-way acquisitions for the project.

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That's why we were taken aback when the city announced the project — which had been re-scheduled to begin April 4 of this year — would once again be delayed due to easement issues, this time after the contract had already been awarded and construction crews from Connell Re-sources were staged and ready to begin work.

Those crews have been idling now for more than two weeks due to easement issues the city was clearly aware of nine months ago, a delay that will no doubt throw the carefully planned construction schedule off kilter and may well push the most impactful portion of the project — the construction of the roundabout — into the busiest weeks of summer.

In our view, this reeks of poor planning, and as a result, what began as — and remains — a much-needed and valuable revitalization of one of the city's most vibrant business areas has again been thrown into turmoil.

We're glad the city was able to work out the issue with the easements and that the project is now moving forward, but again, we have to ask: Why weren’t the easements — which were recognized as a need almost a year ago — secured before the job was bid, the contract was awarded and the construction schedule was established and publicized? The fact that they weren't defies logic.

Our intention is not to assign blame; such is hardly ever a constructive course of action.

Instead, we encourage the city to learn from this experience and review its policies and procedures for initiating such capital projects. This is particularly important in terms of a project such as Central Park, in which delays will almost certainly have a negative impact on residents and businesses alike.

The Central Park Drive renovation — while unquestionably important — is not an emergency that necessitated hasty planning and last-minute scrambling. It wasn't an emergency a year ago, and it's not an emergency now. Had the city followed a stepwise, systematic process of dotting the I's and crossing T's, we cannot help but think the project would have been completed last year, or, at the very least, would be well on its way to completion this year.

At issue

The long-awaited Central Park Drive renovation project gets underway this week, but only after several delays that could have been avoided

Our view

The city should review its policies and procedures for planning and initiating such projects to ensure needless delays don’t occur