Officials hope bids for Aspen’s Rubey Park renovation come in under $8 million
When the Aspen bus-station renovation goes out for bids soon after New Year’s, officials hope the project stays within the $8 million budget at a time when construction costs are soaring.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will oversee the renovation of the facility at Rubey Park. The transit center near downtown Aspen was designed 25 years ago and cannot adequately handle the increasing number of bus riders, according to officials with RFTA and the city government. The project has generated some criticism for putting too big of a building at a key downtown site.
RFTA will put out a request for bids as soon as possible in 2015 and accept bids for roughly five weeks, Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship said. RFTA plans to award a contract in time for construction to start in the spring and finish before the 2015-16 ski season.
“That’s going to be a very challenging project,” Blankenship said.
RFTA and the city of Aspen want to keep buses rolling at Rubey Park during the work. To do so will require some creative use of space at Rubey Park and adjoining Wagner Park during certain phases of the work, he said. For example, the direction of travel for buses arriving and departing might be reversed to accommodate construction.
The same market forces that worked to RFTA’s advantage during the recession and allowed the bus agency to undertake a $46.2 million expansion are now working against it. During the recession, contractors were desperate for work. Favorable bids were received, and manpower was plentiful.
Now, construction costs are escalating like they did prior to 2008. RFTA put the construction of a park-and-ride lot in New Castle on hold earlier this year after bids came in at $1.1 million — about twice as much as budgeted. RFTA also delayed expansion of the Carbondale park and ride because the cost was $1 million and the budget was $500,000. Meanwhile, the lot is “overwhelmed” by transit users, according to a recent memo to the RFTA board of directors from the staff. RFTA is trying to redesign the projects to reduce the costs.
The town of Basalt and RFTA also received bad news recently when they learned the estimated cost of an underpass planned beneath Highway 82 at Basalt Avenue — the main intersection in Basalt — is soaring. When the town government held an open house to unveil the project to the public earlier this fall, the estimated cost was $3.8 million. Now it is at $4.8 million, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon. He is working to find funding sources for the extra $1 million.
The Rubey Park construction project has a number of funding sources. The Elected Officials Transportation Committee, composed of representatives of Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County, is supplying $3.8 million. The city of Aspen and RFTA are supplying $500,000 each. The Federal Highway Administration awarded a $2 million grant and the Colorado Department of Transportation is issuing a $1 million grant.
The city also spent $1.37 million to complete the design and permitting for the project.
Blankenship said he is confident the bids won’t come in for substantially higher amounts because the engineering includes realistic estimates of construction escalation rates and a contingency is built into the budget. In addition, now is a good time to go to bid, as many construction companies are idle or slower for the winter and lining up work for the next year.
The New Castle park and ride was put out to bid in midsummer.
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