Steamboat Springs Joe Kboudi isn’t ready to give a final verdict on the major U.S. Highway 40 construction project through downtown Steamboat Springs, but he’s sure happy it’s done.
Kboudi, the longtime owner of All That Jazz, has been a Lincoln Avenue retailer for 33 years. He can’t remember a project or event that has had such a dramatic impact on downtown businesses, though he did point to the winter of 1976, when a lack of snow forced the ski area to shut down for a month mid-winter.
With Scott Contracting wrapping up the final details this week and early next week, Kboudi is thrilled to see four lanes of open traffic through downtown Steamboat and sidewalks with unrestricted access to businesses.
“Now, everyone has a chance to go forward and make their businesses strong and profitable again,” Kboudi said Thursday. “It’s been tough on everybody, but we hope the community comes down to Lincoln Avenue now.
“I think it will really be good for downtown. And if it encourages people to come downtown and shop, that’s a good thing for all of us.”
Besides the occasional lane closure to allow crews to complete final checklist items, Lincoln Avenue’s four lanes of traffic have been open to motorists all week. Scott Contracting workers spent much of the week on tasks such as pouring and stamping concrete sidewalks at some downtown intersections and finishing conduit work on traffic signals.
Cody Patterson, the project superintendent for Scott Contracting, led city of Steamboat Springs and Colorado Department of Transportation officials on a final project walk-through Thursday afternoon.
Ben Beall, the city’s public works engineer, said the walk-through was the third of the week.
“The list is getting smaller, and that’s a good thing,” Beall said.
“For the most part, we’re done,” Patterson said. “We do have some cleanup and miscellaneous wiring that will still be going on into next week a little.”
The $5.6 million project funded by CDOT got off to a slow start in the spring, hampered by weather and unexpected sub-grade issues encountered by workers under the old asphalt surface. The project’s first phase, which lasted through June, was plagued by traffic jams uncharacteristic to Steamboat Springs. The traffic, coupled with limited access to side streets and sidewalks, frustrated some business owners, who already were feeling the impact of the recession.
Per contractual agreement, the work stopped from July 1 through Labor Day weekend to minimize its impact on the height of summer tourism. The project progressed quickly when work began again in early September. Scott Contracting appears to be ready to leave town more than a month before the project’s contractual deadline, which is Nov. 18.
Patterson credited the quick completion to Steamboat’s warm and dry fall weather.
“The weather was by far our biggest help,” he said. “And getting more familiar with the process made us more efficient.
“If it wasn’t for the sub-grade issues, it would have gone a little faster. With everything that we had to face, I think it went real well. I think everyone is happy with the finished product.”
Beall said work to reinstall survey monument boxes in the center of each intersection could wrap up today. The boxes provide a reference point for surveyors to identify property lines.
CDOT traffic experts will analyze the downtown signal patterns next week. Beall said there have been some hiccups with the signals not working correctly.
“We’re aware of most of the issues,” he said. “There will be a few weeks of tweaks to those and trying to work out the bugs in the system.”
Separate from the Scott Contracting project, the city has hired a firm to reset some sections of brick pavers along Lincoln Avenue. Beall said the work — which will cost about $45,000 and will be paid for out of an existing downtown project capital budget fund from the city — will fix any areas where the pavers don’t line up evenly with the adjacent sidewalks.
Beall said downtown building owners and merchants are responsible for sidewalk maintenance up to the curbs in front of their buildings, but the city didn’t want to leave the property owners responsible for maintaining and fixing those trip hazards.
Finally, local contractor Holmquist Lorenz Construction Co. will begin new bus shelter installation next week along Lincoln Avenue.
“There’s still things to be done, and the weather is still on its way,” Beall said. “The light is at the end of the tunnel, but I think most of the traffic pains are out of the way.”
And when it’s all done, Kboudi said Mainstreet Steamboat Springs is planning a downtown party to celebrate.