Feb. 22, 2018 Vol. 17 No. 14
Councilors demanding answers, progress on Park Avenue bridge
Written by Jeanne Davant   



From Mayor Jaray:

I'm postponing the tagging removal on Serpentine Drive we were going to do on Saturday. It looks like the weather is going to be pretty cold. Probably not the best for trying to remove paint from trees and rocks. Rather than start that effort, I suggest we wait for a warmer day. Hopefully next weekend.

In the meantime, I will be walking from one end of Serpentine (starting at the roundabout) to Rainbow Falls on Saturday, Feb. 24th at 11 a.m. to assess and document the scope of the problem and plan for more extensive removal. It looks to me that the area has mostly tagging not graffiti. I'm learning the difference, and trying to figure out the motivation of people who choose to tag our trees and rocks.

Beauty and the beast


Top, Pikes Peak and Downtown Manitou Springs nestle under a soft, white blanket on Tuesday, Feb. 20. Above, on the city’s west end, however, taggers left a swath of ugliness on rocks and trees off Serpentine Road.

Photos by Rhonda Van Pelt

Expressing frustration with an apparent lack of progress on plans to repair the Park Avenue bridge, Mayor Ken Jaray and City Councilors lit into project manager Todd Ficken of F&D International at the Tuesday, Feb. 20, Council meeting.

Ficken presented a repair proposal to the city at a meeting earlier Tuesday with the city’s on-call engineer and city officials.

But Senior Planner Michelle Anthony, project manager for the city, said the proposal needs to be refined over the next week and that it would take about 60 days for plans to be finished and repairs to be completed.

“We found out the bridge doesn’t work on Feb. 2, and now we’re talking until Feb. 27 to find out how to fix this thing? To me, that seems absurd,” Jaray said, asking Ficken to explain the delay.

“The city needs to offer direction on how they want to proceed with the fix,” Ficken said. “Do you want a flat road? Can you tolerate a hump that’s navigable? Should it be by all vehicles, or is it reasonable to say make it navigable for emergency vehicles, normal cars and campers?”

In addition, Ficken said the city had instructed him to stay within the scope of the original plans for the bridge.

“It takes time to evaluate and look at the options available to us,” he said. “It’s stuff that should not be done in haste. It can’t happen overnight.”

He said it was his opinion that forms used to pour a concrete lip that would receive the road asphalt had slipped, causing the concrete shelf to be too low.

“Before they poured the concrete, I noticed one of the forms was off, and that was corrected,” Ficken said. “As managers, we questioned your staff and asked, ‘Did you measure, is it good?’ And they said yes. I had no reason to believe it wasn’t true.”

“Why didn’t you know the plans were flawed from day one?” Councilor Gary Smith asked.

“My concern is why something didn’t raise a red flag. Why did we pay somebody to manage this? To me it was poorly managed; there’s no other excuse for this. It’s a horrible job, and now we’ve got to fix it.”

“And we’re looking at over two months to do it and no indication of when to start,” Jaray added.


A history of delays

The bridge saga began in 2010, when the city was awarded funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation and the State Historical Fund to repair the Park and Cañon avenue bridges. The engineering firm of Atkinson-Noland and Associates was hired to develop repair specifications and submitted construction documents in 2012.

The design was based on saddling the bridges with a concrete deck extending beyond the arches to reduce vehicle loads on the structures.

The city was in the process of hiring a contractor when the 2013 flooding hit, diverting attention to flood recovery. After a year of delay, F&D International was hired to prepare bid documents for a request for proposals from contractors. No bids were received, however, and work on the bridges was delayed again.

It was determined that more funds would be needed to complete the project, and the city applied for and was awarded $1 million in federal transportation funds in late 2015. Those funds were supplemented with $265,000 remaining from the initial State Historical Fund grant and a $100,000 city match from the John Smischny estate, bringing the total available funds to more than $1.3 million.

It took almost a year to process paperwork and meet contracting requirements for the federal funds, which the Colorado Department of Transportation would administer.

After a new request for bids was issued in March 2017, the city received proposals from H.W. Houston Construction and Murphy Constructors. H.W. Houston was selected as the contractor, and work finally began on the Park Avenue bridge in June 2017.

When the area around the bridge was excavated, however, the contractor found that conditions underground were not as anticipated in the Atkinson-Noland plan and that the design would not work.
Ficken’s firm was asked to re-engineer the design while retaining the original saddle design concept the funders had approved. Work on the bridge was suspended for a month while the approach was redesigned.

Because of the delays, the project that was supposed to be completed in three to four months took almost twice that long.

The completed bridge was reopened briefly on Feb. 2 but reclosed after the city found that the bridge deck’s steep grade was causing vehicles to scrape the high point.


Where to go from here

Anthony said city staff and the on-call engineers had “a lot of good discussion and some suggestions for options” at Tuesday’s meeting.

“At a certain point we all agreed that there had been a lot of ideas thrown out,” Anthony said. “F&D said they would need to give us some questions, which they will do in a separate memo in the next couple of days. They can then refine the proposal.”

The contractor agreed to cover the cost of repairs according to F&D’s initial proposal, “but he would not be able to start the work on the fix unless his current billing is brought up to date,” Anthony wrote in a Feb. 20 memo to Council. Payments to both F&D and H.W. Houston are being withheld until there is a resolution on the bridge issue.

Anthony said Park Avenue bridge expenses accrued to date total more than $700,000 and that there is not enough funding to complete work on the Canon Avenue bridge, on which $100,000 has already been spent.

Complicating the situation further, the city faces deadlines on spending the funds it has received.

Anthony said she has met with a representative of the State Historic Fund, who determined that “we’re not in danger of potentially losing that funding.”

The federal transportation grant is another matter.

Anthony said Ficken has to amend the contract with the funders to show that costs for the Park Avenue bridge were considerably greater than originally estimated.

“We need to talk to CDOT about amending the scope” of the contract to increase the budget or “to change it to work that’s already been done,” Anthony said.

“If a contract amendment to increase the budget is pursued, this should include additional time to complete the project,” she said.

“That’s what we need to do at this point,” Anthony said. “Staff has requested a meeting with CDOT representatives in order to discuss what direction they would like the city to pursue and the details regarding options that are available under CDOT regulations. We have not heard back yet, but we are hoping they can do that this week or early next week.”