Granite Construction Inc./Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction Co. – Grand Avenue Bridge

Granite ConstructionCDOT’s new bridge in Glenwood Springs, Colo., aims to be more than ‘your typical overpass.’ 

By Alan Dorich

It’s not easy to build under harsh weather conditions, but Granite Construction Inc. and Ralph L. Wadsworth (RLW) Construction Co. have persevered on the Grand Avenue Bridge project in Glenwood Springs, Colo. “We’ve gotten [a lot] done in a short amount of time,” Granite Project Manager Pat Kalisz says.

Both companies had plenty of work to do this previous January and February, which was made difficult by the cold temperatures in the mountain region. But thanks to hard work, “We’re basically right on schedule, which is all that you can ask for,” he says.Granite Construction info box

The $76 million project, which Granite and RLW are building for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), consists of a pedestrian bridge and vehicular bridge, over the Colorado River that will replace an older ones. “The south side starts in downtown Glenwood Springs, and the top spreads across the Hot Springs Pool parking lot,” Granite Area Manager Eric Wells says.

The bridges and associated connectivity improvements will be the largest project that CDOT has completed in western Colorado for the past two decades. CDOT Resident Engineer and Grand Avenue Project Manager Roland Wagner adds that the bridge has been in the works for a long time.

“CDOT originally wanted to replace the old bridge in the 1990s, [but it was] shut down due to local opposition,” he recalls. “This is a resort community, so there’s a lot of recreational activities that occur in the area.”

These include skiing, rafting and mountain bike riding. “The downtown business owners had a lot of concern about impacts at that time,” Wagner explains.

But when the project was revived years later, it was better received. “We were able to complete a final design in October 2015,” he says, noting that construction started in January. “Our completion date is June 30, 2018.”

Making Everyone Happy

CDOT awarded the Grand Avenue project to Granite and RLW in November 2015, which required a quick turnaround, Kalisz says. “We had a lot to do in the first couple of months,” he recalls. “Getting material and supplies has been a big challenge, but we’re starting to get over that.”

Both companies also coped with getting the bridge’s scope defined and approved, not only by CDOT, but also others including the Colorado Bridge Enterprise which is funding most of the project, and the local stakeholders. “You’re trying to make everyone happy,” Wells says.

So far, the project team has kept everyone pleased. “We have weekly meetings with them to see how they’re affected on a daily basis,” he says, noting that this was an issue for many locals. “I truly believe that’s subsided.”

Wagner agrees that this approach was required. “We’re doing [$76] million worth of work in the historic downtown area,” he says. “It has the potential to be very impactful, but the joint venture is being very cognizant to work with our local stakeholders.”

A Signature Project

The new Grand Avenue Bridge will be a signature piece of infrastructure for the local community, Wells says. “There’s a lot of aesthetics going into this,” he says. “It’s not your regular overpass so there is an architectural aspect of the structure.”

When CDOT designed the bridge, it had to create one that pleased locals, Wagner adds. “They didn’t want an urban flyover-looking project,” he says. “They would support a bridge and new pedestrian bridge if it fit the character and historical context of the area.”

The bridge’s aesthetic, he notes, incorporates brick and stone to help it blend in with the local buildings. For example, “There’s a historic railroad depot we looked at [for] our architectural elements,” Wagner says.

These included canopies that are incorporated into the pedestrian bridge. “I’m really proud of how we were able to work with the local community develop a context-sensitive aesthetic and design,” he says.

Keeping Busy

The Grand Avenue Bridge is 10 percent complete and CDOT is pleased with the work of Granite and RLW, Wagner reports. “The joint venture is just doing an outstanding job,” he says.

He adds that the project has benefited from utilizing the CM/GC delivery method. “We needed a lot of construction expertise at the table when we were designing the project and evaluating impacts,” he recalls.

“That’s the value of having the contractor on the team with us throughout,” he says. “They understand the whole project and help the owner minimize the impacts the best we can.”

After the bridge is finished in 2018, Granite wants to work again with RLW and CDOT, Kalisz says. “We certainly hope there’s more work ahead with [both],” he says. “I think there will be jobs like this where it’s a good fit for both of our companies.”

But for the moment, CDOT is keeping busy, Wagner asserts. “We actually have several large projects underway,” he says. “Not just in western Colorado, but [we’re also working] in the Denver metro area.”

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