RFTA will use expansion funds for faulty Glenwood facility | AspenTimes.com

RFTA will use expansion funds for faulty Glenwood facility

CARBONDALE – The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will use funds approved by voters to expand the bus system to fix a faulty maintenance building in Glenwood Springs.

RFTA’s board of directors, meeting in Carbondale, voted Thursday to spend $4.15 million to repair part of its bus maintenance and cleaning facility. Tens of thousands of gallons of water leaked through the floor of the washing facility from the time the building opened in winter 2002 until the end of 2003, according to Chris Squadra of ARC Integrated Program Management Inc. of Boulder, a consultant for RFTA.

The water undermined portions of the foundation when wet soils collapsed. Parts of the building have settled as much as 9 inches, Squadra said.

The consulting team recommended shoring up the foundation under parts of the building that have settled most. Concrete columns will be driven 120 feet underground to bedrock for stabilization. Annual monitoring will occur to gauge if more pilings are needed under other parts of the building.

“A board decision is required because remaining in the Glenwood Maintenance Facility without repairing it is not a viable option,” RFTA’s staff wrote to the board in a memo.

The facility was built in 2001 at a site near the Glenwood Meadows mall. It was designed to last at least 30 years, but RFTA staff discovered problems in 2003. The original design and construction team was notified of cracking and allegedly said it was normal settling, Squadra said. A subcontractor eventually installed a liner to prevent the water leak in the washing bays.

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RFTA contends poor design led to the water leak. The agency is exploring if it can recover the cost of repair from its insurance company, the original contractor, or both. FCI Constructors, which has an office in Grand Junction, was the contractor on the job.

RFTA’s board concurred with its staff Thursday that repairs are needed immediately, although the funding source stirred debate.

RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship proposed taking the $4.15 million from $25 million in bonds that valley voters approved in November 2008. The bonds, which will be paid back through a sales tax hike, were approved to provide partial funding for RFTA’s planned bus rapid transit system. The proposal will place more buses on the roads and provide better bus stations throughout the valley, if federal funding is obtained.

RFTA director and Snowmass Village Councilman John Wilkinson objected to using the bond proceeds to repair the maintenance facility. Voters didn’t intend to fix an existing construction problem they weren’t aware of when they approved the bonds, he said.

Blankenship countered that the bus maintenance and cleaning facility is an integral part of the expanded bus system. The existing bus fleet, let alone an expanded one, cannot be serviced properly without the facility, he said. Attorneys have advised him that funding the repairs are a legally valid use of the bonds.

“I’m still uncomfortable with it,” Wilkinson said.

Fellow RFTA director and Basalt Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt said she would approve Blankenship’s funding plan as long as it didn’t violate uses of the bonds and the use wouldn’t jeopardize chances to secure a federal grant. Funds from the Federal Transit Administration will pay for the bulk of the bus rapid transit system. Blankenship assured the board that the federal government wants proof that RFTA can maintain its facilities. Bus rapid transit funding would be in greater jeopardy if RFTA didn’t fix the facility, he said.

The repairs will include redesign of what’s called the clarifier pits located beneath the wash bays. The new design has less chance of leaking and better, built-in monitoring, Squadra said. The repairs will also include $425,000 worth of drainage improvements to prevent other sources of water from contributing to the problem.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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