RFTA expands facility repairs in Glenwood

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – After nearly scuttling a plan to make critical repairs to the Roaring Fork Transportation Agency’s bus maintenance facility in Glenwood Springs, the RFTA board of directors voted 6-1 Thursday to expand the nearly $6 million project.

Last month, the board agreed to spend $4.15 million to shore up the bus-washing bay in the building, where tens of thousands of gallons of water apparently leaked through the floor during its first couple of years of operation. Wet soils beneath the structure collapsed, and the building has sunk as much as 9 inches.

Before the board yesterday in Carbondale was a proposal to spend an additional $1.64 million to shore up the rest of the building – a step recommended by engineers – bringing the total expense to $5.79 million.

“We’re actually investing more money into this building now than it cost for us to build the building in the first place,” said Eagle County Commissioner Sara Fisher, one of several board members who appeared willing to scrap the repair plan altogether, raze the building and start fresh on another site.

A lengthy recap ensued on the pros and cons of repairing the structure versus building a new one. A vote to reconsider last month’s approval of the $4.15 million expenditure failed, 4-3, with Fisher, Pitkin County Commissioner Michael Owsley and Carbondale Trustee Ed Cortez advocating the reconsideration. Owsley also cast the sole vote against spending the additional $1.64 million.

“If we build something else, we’re basically replacing the capacity we have at this building somewhere else,” said Dan Blankenship, RFTA CEO. “It would cost as much as fixing this.”

“I just don’t see that this Band-Aid is going to satisfy my concerns,” Cortez said.

“This is a substantial repair. It’s not a Band-Aid,” responded Mike Hermes, RFTA director of facilities.

“I don’t think this is a Band-Aid,” said Dave Sturges, a Glenwood Springs city councilman. “I think this is doing everything the experts have suggested to us to get this building stabilized.”

“I feel as OK as I can about fixing this building at this point,” said Jacque Whitsitt, a Basalt councilwoman.

Work, slated to begin Monday and conclude by Nov. 30, will involve drilling through the building’s footings both inside and outside of the structure, and inserting sleeves into which grout will be injected at high pressure. The columns of grout will extend down 100 feet or so, to the level of the Colorado River gravel, stabilizing the soils and holding the structure up.

“It’s basically stilts down to the river gravel,” said Mike Golden, president of MW Golden Constructors, the contractor on the project. MW Golden assembled a design team that includes expert engineers who have assessed the problem and the solution, said Chris Squadra of ARC Integrated Program Management Inc., RFTA’s consultant on the project.

“I’m 100 percent confident it will work for this building,” Golden said.

The work comes with a 5-year warranty; the life expectancy of the building after repairs are made is 30 years, he added.

A new wash bay, and some new interior supporting walls to hold up the roof where the settling has compromised the structure, are also part of the plan, as are $425,000 worth of drainage improvements that have already begun.

The sagging wash bay will actually be lifted about 4 inches, but 2 inches of further settling is anticipated, Golden said.

That still means part of the building will still be 5 inches lower than it should be, Owsley pointed out.

“I wouldn’t call getting the building within 5 inches of level a fix,” he said. “I’m really wary of throwing good money after bad.”

That 5 inches won’t be noticeable except in some bowing one could only see beneath the wash bay or on the roof, but the repairs will compensate for the shifting, making the structure stable again, Hermes said.

The wash bay is currently not in use, and employees will be evacuated to temporary quarters elsewhere on the site during a portion of the work, Squadra said.

“I don’t want to leave the impression that there is no risk in the lifting of this building,” he said.

Funding for the repairs will come initially from $25 million in bonds that valley voters approved in 2008 to provide partial funding for RFTA’s planned bus rapid transit system.

RFTA will not jeopardize its ability to provide a matching grant to federal money for bus rapid transit, Blankenship assured the board.

Rather, the agency will borrow money to repay what it takes from the bond funds, if necessary. In the end, the expenditure could cut into what RFTA has available for plans it has to expand the maintenance facility in Glenwood, Blankenship said.

Golden said additional construction there is possible, but he would recommend a different type of foundation than was used for the existing structure.

The RFTA board has already agreed to proceed with litigation over construction of the maintenance facility, according to Walter Mathews, RFTA general counsel. The board met behind closed doors Thursday with Mathews to further discuss the legal action.

Funds from a lawsuit settlement or other compensation that results from litigation would go to paying for the repairs, Blankenship said.

The bus maintenance facility cost $4.2 million to construct; the building opened in winter 2002. FCI Constructors, which has an office in Grand Junction, was the contractor on the job.