What: Public meeting on Phase II of U.S. 36 Managed Lanes project
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: West Boulder Senior Center, 909 Arapahoe Ave.
U.S. 36 Managed Lanes project
Length: 11 miles, from Federal Boulevard to 88th Street
Cost: $312 million
Construction start date: July 2012
Estimated completion date: Early 2015
BRT stations at Westminster Center (Sheridan Boulevard); Westminster (Church Ranch Boulevard); Broomfield (1st Bank Center); Broomfield (Flatiron/96th Street)
Length: 6 miles, from 88th Street to Table Mesa Park-n-Ride
Cost: Estimated $113 million
Construction start date: Fall 2013
Estimated completion date: Early 2016
BRT stations at Superior/Louisville (McCaslin Boulevard); Boulder (Table Mesa Drive)
SUPERIOR -- Hints of what's to come are out there, with earthmovers puffing away near the Davidson Mesa overlook and a modest collection of orange construction barrels lining the side of U.S. 36 on the way down to Boulder.
But the obvious work -- and more notably the inconvenience for motorists driving the stretch of U.S. 36 between 88th Street in Louisville and Boulder's Table Mesa park-n-Ride -- won't become apparent until March.
That's when the second phase of the U.S. 36 Managed Lanes project, which will add a toll/transit lane to each direction of the highway and prompt a massive overhaul of the interchange at McCaslin Boulevard, ramps up with lane realignments and constrictions.
The timeline for the makeover of the western end of U.S. 36, along with other details of the $112 million effort, was presented at a public meeting in Superior on Monday. A second meeting on the topic will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the West Boulder Senior Center, 909 Arapahoe Ave.
"There are a lot of things we're doing on this highway that people haven't seen before," Kristi Estes, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation, told an audience of 20 or so people.
Real-time intelligent signage on road conditions and traffic flows, a state-of-the-art tolling system for the managed lanes, a bus rapid transit system, a corridor-long bikeway and the Front Range's first diverging diamond interchange are just some of the things coming to the 62-year-old highway that links Denver and Boulder.
Also in Phase II, Coal Creek bridge is scheduled to be replaced, while the South Boulder Creek bridge will be widened and rehabilitated.
"We work days, we work nights, we work weekends," said Sheryl Machado, a spokeswoman for contractor Ames/Granite. "We try to keep the impacts to the traveling public to a minimum."
Ames/Granite is part of private consortium Plenary Roads Denver that CDOT chose last spring to complete the second phase of the U.S. 36 Managed Lanes project and then maintain the entire corridor for the next 50 years. Plenary Roads will collect tolls from solo and two-occupant vehicles that choose to use the managed lanes.
Machado said work on the six miles of highway just southeast of Boulder has been underway for a couple of months but mostly with behind-the-scenes efforts that include grading, installation of drainage improvements and the relocation of electric utilities.
The popular overlook at Davidson Mesa on the westbound side of U.S. 36 was closed last month so that crews could use the site as a staging area for the highway-widening project.
Phase II, which is expected to be completed in early 2016, will seamlessly connect with the first phase of the project. That 11-mile segment, which runs between Federal Boulevard and 88th Street, broke ground in July 2012 and is expected to be completed in 2015.
Also starting in the spring will be construction of the diverging diamond interchange at McCaslin Boulevard. The diverging diamond is a relatively new highway design in the United States that will funnel traffic on to the "wrong side" of McCaslin Boulevard as it crosses over U.S. 36 in order to give motorists unobstructed left turns on to the turnpike. Traffic engineers say the interchange, of which there are only a dozen or so in the country, is more efficient and safer than conventional interchanges.
Louisville City Manager Malcolm Fleming, who attended Monday's meeting at Superior Town Hall, said he worries about the impact the interchange construction will have on businesses in the area.
"It's going to be a situation where people will be more fearful of the area than they need to be," he said.
Construction on the diverging diamond interchange is expected to wrap up in the summer of 2015.
Superior Trustee Joe Cirelli said he would love to see the project completed "sooner than later," given the upcoming construction schedule for Superior Town Center. That mixed-use community southeast of the interchange -- a groundbreaking ceremony is set for this afternoon -- is expected to one day boast a network of new roads, up to 1,400 new homes and hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space.
Audience members asked about the frequency of bus service once bus rapid transit is instituted, the location of bus stops at the McCaslin Boulevard interchange, and connections to the U.S. 36 bikeway, including via two future underpasses at McCaslin Boulevard in Superior and Davidson Mesa, between Louisville and Superior.
Nederland resident Phillip Reschke, who works in Superior, questioned the accountability of the 50-year arrangement CDOT made with Plenary Roads Denver for construction and maintenance of the highway between Denver and Boulder.
He also isn't fond of the plan to only qualify vehicles with three or more occupants as high occupancy, known as HOV3, making them eligible to use the managed lanes for free. Currently, two or more occupants qualify for HOV travel in Colorado.
"The HOV3 decision, that's pretty inept," he said. "I can't think of anything more ridiculous than that."
But CDOT representatives said that without the private-public partnership with Plenary Roads Denver and the ability to place most of the project's financial risks on the consortium, the project wouldn't have been delivered for another 20 to 30 years. They say the HOV3 approach was necessary to generate enough toll revenue to pay back the bonds that will have to be floated for the project.