RFTA jittery over pace of $46M project | AspenTimes.com

RFTA jittery over pace of $46M project

Scott Condon/The Aspen TimesA crew on the team of Gould Construction prepares a site on Highway 82 in Basalt for a new bus station as part of a $46 million expansion.

CARBONDALE – Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) officials feel that the $46 million bus-system expansion is off to a slow start. The general contractor on the job said RFTA needs to relax.

RFTA project manager Mike Hermes told the organization’s board of directors Thursday in Carbondale that he is concerned that too much work will be pushed into 2013 at the rate construction is progressing this summer. He wants to make sure general contractor Gould Construction can finish the mammoth job in 13 1/2months – by the deadline of Sept. 3, 2013.

“We’re having a little battle about that,” Hermes said.

Mark Gould, president of the construction firm, said he is confident that the deadline will be met. “I would tell you we’re not concerned at all,” he said.

There has been somewhat of a slow start, he acknowledged, but much of the work involves duplicating construction of bus stations at new locations. Therefore, he expects the work to progress well over the remainder of this summer and next construction season.

Gould said some members of his team had to learn how to deal with new regulations on the project. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provided a $35 million grant to RFTA, so federal guidelines must be followed during construction. There are roughly 13 subcontractors working on the job for Gould Construction and many of them haven’t worked on a FTA project before.

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“There’s a learning curve working under the FTA system,” Gould said.

In a nutshell, FTA rules apply to protocol, pay and paperwork, according to Gould. A federal regulation mandates the pay scale so workers are receiving more than typically paid in the Roaring Fork Valley, he said. The firms must file copious amounts of paperwork to show the regulation is being met.

As another example, Gould said substantial paperwork must be filed to show all materials used are made in the U.S.

“Whenever you have the FTA involved, the paperwork goes up by three times” compared with a municipal or county project, Gould said. He stressed he isn’t complaining. He knew about the requirements when he bid the job. His point was simply that it requires adjustments by the firms working on the job. Once the adjustments are made, work will speed up, he explained.

Hermes got the attention of RFTA’s board of directors by saying he had concerns that too much of the work will “stack up” and require a mad scramble at the end to try to complete it by the deadline. That isn’t unusual on major projects, he said, but he wants to avoid that and meet the deadline agreed to with the FTA.

“We’re pushing (Gould) to get more people out there now,” Hermes said.

The expansion is spread throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, with 18 components from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. Gould Construction is already working on four park-and-ride lots and bus stations in Carbondale and Basalt. Two more pieces of the project are about to start, Hermes said.

The construction of a bus station and improvements to the park-and-ride lot in Carbondale are nearly 50 percent complete. That will be the first part of the project completed. In Basalt, RFTA is working on the upvalley bus station on Highway 82 and aims to expand a parking lot this fall. The existing parking lot holds 105 vehicles. The expansion will add parking for another 123 vehicles.

One of the biggest pieces of the project will be construction of a pedestrian underpass of Highway 82 at Willits. Work begins this fall on detour lanes around the work site on Highway 82. The lanes won’t be required until spring 2013, when the underpass will be constructed.

Hermes said he is meeting with Gould supervisors next week to “reconcile” their differing outlooks on progress. “They need to explain to us how they’re going to get this done,” he said.

Gould said he understands Hermes’ concerns. The owner of a project gets to express concerns but not micro-manage, he said.

Gould said his firm is used to working on deadline. It finished the Willits Lane roundabout in 28 days, the quickest work of its type that the Colorado Department of Transportation has ever overseen, according to Gould.

If the time comes for his team to put in extra effort in order to complete the RFTA project on time, he won’t hesitate.

“It’s not time to work the guys seven days per week because we’re not in a predicament,” Gould said.

Once Hermes had the attention of RFTA’s directors and they started asking questions, he backed off a bit on his concerns. He said everything might be fine and his concerns might be unfounded.

“We’re not fatally behind by any stretch of imagination,” Hermes insisted.

There is financial incentive to complete the project on time. Gould Construction must pay a late fee of $5,800 per day if the work isn’t done by Sept. 3, 2013, Hermes said.

scondon@aspentimes.com