The Colorado Department of Transportation is on pace to complete a series of expansion and improvement projects along a stretch of Interstate 25 in Northern Colorado on time despite challenges posed by COVID-19 and the global supply-chain snags created by the pandemic.
The projects — most of which center on adding a lane and replacing bridges between Mead and Fort Collins — are expected to wrap up by the first half of 2024, CDOT project director Chris Boespflug said Monday during a tour of roadway construction zones.
Because construction crews work outside, the pandemic didn’t result in many prolonged stoppages. However, the resulting supply-chain issues have made it more difficult and expensive to secure materials.
“Everybody is worried about (sourcing materials) and steel prices are going through the roof,” Boespflug said. “Resin, geotextiles, cement — all that stuff is hard to get.”
CDOT and its contractors use sulphate-resistant coal ash in its concrete mix. But since coal-fired power generation dropped during the pandemic, so too did the production of the ash byproduct.
Supply issues directly impact CDOT’s contractors, but the department has a vested interest in the success of its partners.
“This affects the whole project and it affects relationships,” Boespflug said. “If the contractor is losing money, we don’t want to see any corners getting cut.”
In a worst case scenario, a contractor or subcontractor could go under, which would be a major blow to CDOT’s ability to deliver its projects on time, CDOT project director Abra Geissler said.
Also, in certain cases, contractors bid on projects in segments, she said. So rising material prices could result in higher bids for later segments.
A bigger factor than COVID-19 on CDOT’s timeline is weather, Boespflug said. In 2021 the Front Range has seen one of its wettest starts to a year in decades.
“Weather is huge — it’s unpredictable” and construction equipment is difficult to maneuver in wet or muddy conditions, he said.
CDOT builds a certain amount of cushion into its project timelines, but occasionally contractors have to play catch-up.
That can mean working nights and weekends, Boespflug said.
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