For more information

or to voice concerns about the construction call Jalisco's informational hotline at 877-808-1257 or send an email to sh119publicinfo@gmail.com

Considering its importance as a trans-county arterial -- and the fact that the work is months behind schedule -- it's no surprise state transportation officials have been getting an earful about a pair of intersection reconstruction projects on the Diagonal Highway.

A Colorado Department of Transportation contractor in September broke ground on the $4.5 million widening project, which started at the intersection of the Diagonal and Niwot Road, adding turn lanes in each direction.

Crews opened up the second phase of the project at the Diagonal and Jay Road intersection in October. The work -- which will also upgrade medians, sidewalks and traffic signals -- aims to improve traffic flow and safety along the Diagonal. But a confluence of bad weather, and other complications have pushed back completion dates.

The Jay Road work, originally scheduled to end last month, now likely won't be done until the end of July, according to CDOT spokeswoman Ashley Mohr.

While the Niwot Road project was delayed well beyond its projected March completion date, Mohr said that intersection should be done by the end of this week, hopefully lessening some of the traffic headaches on the Diagonal.

Gunbarrel-area motorists' patience tested

"It's just been the perfect storm up there and I understand people are frustrated. Hopefully, the Niwot Road completion will help them a little." Mohr said.

"We all want it to be done, but at the same time we want to do it safely and we don't want to rush it to get out of there and leave something to be done later."

Perturbed motorists have been so vocal about slow progress and other issues with the two-front project, that Mohr said CDOT has set up an informational hotline and email account to provide updates and answer questions about the work.

It's a safe bet a good number of calls and emails might originate in Gunbarrel, the unincorporated Boulder County community situated east of the Diagonal, between the two constructions sites.

Thom Race has lived in Gunbarrel for eight years and said he typically drives through the Jay Road and Diagonal intersection three or four times each day for work or to take his kids to various activities. He said it gives him plenty of time to observe constriction progress -- or the lack thereof.

"What's just a pain about it is they closed in off in late September and October and it just sat there for months and months and months," said Race.

Issues Race identified with the Jay Road work is there are sometimes no crews out there, and when there are, they are often "pitifully small," leading him to believe the contractor, Jalisco International Inc., considers it a low priority.

Race also questioned whether the project was necessary, saying he never felt traffic in and out of Gunbarrel backed up too much at Jay Road.

He likened the work to a home makeover TV show, where a contractor promises an amazing remodel but forces the homeowner to move out for a few weeks in the meantime.

"You get the sinking feeling one of these days they are going to do the big reveal and it is just going to be horribly disappointing," he said. "I'm just waiting for it to get done and see what the benefit it really gives us."

Piles of dirt moving 'from one place to another'

The work has also affected thousands of commuters who rely on the Diagonal to get across Boulder County each day, such as Patricia Brown who live in north Longmont but works for the U.S. Postal Service in Boulder.

While she has taken numerous alternate routes, including North 63rd Street and Hygiene Road to U.S. 36 into Boulder, she still occasionally ends up on the Diagonal where she has been alarmed by the slow progress at Jay Road in particular.

"It could have been something amazing with all the time it is taking," she said. "All they do is move one pile of dirt from one place to another. CDOT should never hire (this contractor) again."

Gunbarrel resident Lauren Galey said she grew up in the Boulder area and doesn't remember construction work ever taking as long as the Jay Road project has taken. She wondered if contractors on public projects stand to benefit from drawing out work.

"In the private sector it seems like things get built really fast but for public projects it seems like there is no one watching or there to crack the whip," she said. "And then it has a huge effect on commerce for months on end. It just seems like the public is being taken advantage of."

Contractor has been thrown plenty of curve balls'

Mohr said that Jalisco's contract for the work does not include any additional compensation for extra time needed for the project to be completed. It was awarded the job because state law required that the project go to the lowest bidder. (Jalisco's bid of $4,476,746.10 was nearly $100,000 less than the next lowest bidder, Scott Contracting Inc.)

"This contractor has been thrown more curve balls than any other," Mohr said. "I'm sure they want out of there as well, because every day they're there is longer than they anticipated."

Among those curveballs was an especially wet, cold spring that prevented crews from laying down concrete road base, Mohr said.

She said the project also has limited work hours -- 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day -- installed specifically to lessen the impacts on rush hour traffic.

"These project's work hours in some cases are almost half of other projects because of the congestion in the area," Mohr said.

When it comes to complaints that there were often no people working on the Jay Road project, especially in the early going when the weather was mild, Mohr said some of that can be attributed to a curveball too.

During the Jay Road work crews stumbled across a few utility lines that did not show up on any city or county records for the area, Mohr said. For each surprise utility line, CDOT had to figure out to whom it belonged and do paper work outlining its relocation, which kept crews off the streets while that paperwork was being processed.

"With each one we found we had to go through the proper channels" she said. "Usually we do that work at the very beginning of the process. It's usually something we want to get them out of the way, so that through us for a loop.

"People are expecting pavement to be doing down, not us to be working on paperwork at that point."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or rubinoj@dailycamera.com.