CDOT computer trouble may delay trail
February 14, 2007
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Glitches in converting to a new computer system in the Colorado Department of Transportation are creating delays in project funding and planning for local governments, and in payments to contractors.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s hopes of paving a bike trail from 23rd Street in Glenwood Springs to the Colorado Mountain College turnoff on Highway 82 this year apparently are one casualty of the $24 million conversion. Problems related to the conversion are standing in the way of RFTA using federal funds allocated for the project.
RFTA officials now think the trail construction probably won’t occur until next year. However, they plan to at least grade a portion of the trail corridor and lay down crushed, fine gravel to make it usable for pedestrians and mountain bikes, and perhaps skinny-tired road bikes. That portion, between Buffalo Valley Inn and Ironbridge Golf Club, would provide bicyclists with an alternative to traveling on busy Highway 82.
RFTA is working to complete a trail along the former railroad corridor in the Roaring Fork Valley. Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen, also a RFTA board member, road cyclist and trails proponent, was disappointed to learn of the problem with the downvalley portion of the trail.
“It just seems that this end of the RFTA trail just keeps getting put off year after year,” he said.
RFTA Executive Director Dan Blankenship said the problem stems from the fact that a $1 million federal grant and a CDOT grant of around $128,000 are involved. That means the project is subject to CDOT requirements regarding things such as engineering and bidding, and RFTA needs to get a contract from CDOT.
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“We’re not clear exactly when we’re going to get that,” Blankenship said.
He said that for months now, CDOT has told RFTA the contract will be ready within a few weeks.
The way things are going, the earliest RFTA might be ready to bid out the project is mid-summer, when contractors are busy and probably would charge top dollar, Blankenship said. And it would be difficult to get the trail finished this year.
“We’re not the only ones who are experiencing this problem,” Blankenship said. “Everybody has been affected by this, and it’s not something that CDOT is happy about, and they’re working as hard as they can to correct the problem, but inadvertently it’s having these kinds of impacts on us.”
Glenwood Springs City Engineer Mike McDill said the city has experienced delays in receiving CDOT funds for things such as transit.
“Money we should have gotten the last couple of weeks in December, we’re just getting now. … It’s been frustrating because it’s not like we haven’t been trying frequently to get the money. It’s just that it’s not happening.”
McDill said the delays are taking up staff time but otherwise aren’t a big deal because the city has adequate cash reserves to cover the funding needs until the money arrives.
Blankenship said RFTA may be able to tap reserves to move forward on capital improvements involving fare boxes and a new bus, while it awaits grants from CDOT. But he thinks CDOT’s problems might create more financial difficulties for smaller transit systems.
CDOT spokesperson Stacey Stegman said the agency went live with the new computer system Nov. 1. Previously, individual systems were used for pavement management, engineering, payroll and numerous other functions.
“We just had a whole bunch of systems that didn’t talk together,” she said.
The new system should make it easier to manage projects and see where they are budgetwise without having to work with multiple systems, she said.
“It hasn’t been easy, but I think we’ve made a lot of progress in just the last couple of months. But we have had difficulty paying vendors, paying contractors, and everything has been delayed,” Stegman said.
One problem is that the e-mail system connected to electronic fund transfers wasn’t working, preventing notification of payments, so CDOT went back to cutting checks instead.
She said invoices that used to take perhaps five days to process were taking around six weeks instead.
Some delays also are the result of many CDOT offices operating with skeleton crews while so many CDOT employees are training on the new system.
“Everyone that’s working with the system recognizes that it’s been hard. It’s a huge project, and it’s a totally different way of doing business. We’re all having to learn,” Stegman said.
She thinks the new system will make things easier in the long run. And people like Blankenship and McDill are understanding about the glitches.
“It’s hard to criticize. We’ve all been victimized at some time by technology,” Blankenship said.
Said McDill, “If it was always that way that would be a problem. If it’s just a temporary glitch … we all have glitches every once in a while.”
If RFTA’s Glenwood-area trail-building plans are postponed until next year, the agency plans to build trail downvalley from Carbondale as far as budgeted local funds will allow.