C-470 construction far behind schedule

CDOT says contractor was misleading about progress of express lanes project

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It's like the sign says: construction ahead, expect delays.

The C-470 Express Lanes project, which will add two tolled express lanes along the busy highway, was supposed to be done this summer.

The Colorado Department of Transportation, however, recently placed the project's contractor in default after what it calls repeated delays, misleading timelines and insufficient resources to finish the work on time.

At this point, CDOT says the work could stretch into next summer.

“We certainly understand the frustration drivers feel,” CDOT spokesman Matt Inzeo said. “We're taking every action to make sure this project is done as quickly as possible while making sure safety and quality standards are met.”

The $276 million project, which kicked off in 2016, is about 83% complete, Inzeo said.

The project includes adding toll lanes to the highway between I-25 and Wadsworth Boulevard, as well as adding noise walls, realigning curves and widening overpasses. The project is expected to save commuters up to 18 minutes during a rush hour trip along the 12-mile stretch between I-25 and Wadsworth once it's completed, according to CDOT.

CDOT formally notified the contractor, a joint entity made up of Flatiron Construction and AECOM, called F|A, that it was in breach of contract in a letter to project manager Dustin Williams on Aug. 2.

F|A failed to inform CDOT of repeated delays in a timely fashion, the letter says, and misled officials about the project's progress.

“CDOT repeatedly provided comments and expressed concerns regarding F|A's ability to achieve the required Project Completion Deadlines,” the letter reads in part. “F|A failed to adequately address CDOT's comments and concerns and continually misrepresented in the Contract Schedules that they were able to meet the required Project Completion Deadlines.”

Williams, who works for Flatiron, declined to comment on the matter when reached by phone, and directed questions to a company spokeswoman. That spokeswoman initially directed questions back to CDOT, but when asked for Flatiron's reaction, directed questions to another spokeswoman. That spokeswoman said she would respond with a statement, but had not done so by Aug. 29.

AECOM did not respond to requests for comment.

At this point, Inzeo said, CDOT will have to decide whether to stick it out with F|A or to find another contractor to complete the project. The project likely won't be completed until at least December, or possibly as late as June 2020, Inzeo said.

Both Flatiron and AECOM are well-known entities, Inzeo said, and the project's problems are unusual.

“We haven't placed a contractor in default in years,” Inzeo said. “This would be something that hasn't happened in quite some time.”

Local officials said they're thankful CDOT is stepping up to address problems.

“We appreciate that CDOT maintained timely communication with Douglas County and other members of the multi-jurisdictional C-470 Coalition, as well as the public, regarding construction delays and plans for the foreseeable future,” said Roger Partridge, chairman of the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners. “We especially appreciate the public's patience during the delayed construction period."

The delays are disappointing, said Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman.

“This is really painful for the whole south side of the metro area,” Brinkman said. “The construction is pushing traffic onto surface streets, and it's causing congestion everywhere. We've been tolerating this with the expectation it will end soon, and the longer it goes on, the more painful it is.”

Brinkman said she's anxious to see progress.

“The sooner it's finished, the sooner life can get back to normal,” Brinkman said. “Just get the dang thing done already.”

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