It's the start of yet another new year — time for us to look at what's apt to happen in construction during the next 12 months, specifically in Mountain America. And since the six Mountain states currently have among the hottest economies in the country, the outlook is comparatively bright. Though everyone's impacted by the escalating cost of construction materials, those spiraling costs appear to have at least moderated in the past few months. Forecasts of necessity look at the dollar volume of construction, and with costs higher, owners are getting less bang for their buck. That's no doubt at least part of the reason why contracts recently awarded in Nevada and Wyoming represent the biggest single contracts ever awarded for highway work in each of those states.
And speaking of big highway projects, yet another favorable editorial on the Denver area's just completed T-REX Project appeared recently (Nov. 16) in the Rocky Mountain News — a viewpoint that almost exactly mirrors our own opinion, and thus bears repeating here for the enlightenment of all:
New rail lines mark end of an era
T-REX model cannot be emulated
T-REX was formally interred today, with the opening of new light-rail lines along Interstates 25 and 225 southeast of downtown Denver.
The other half of the project — the expansion and improvements of Interstate 25 — was completed two months ago.
The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Regional Transportation District deserve credit for ensuring that T-REX was finished on time and on budget, with only a few hiccups.
As far as we're concerned, the T-REX model of joint funding for highway and transit improvements should have been adopted for the entire metro area. Unfortunately, it was not. Two years ago, voters approved the transit-only FasTracks, and such needed highway improvements as added lanes along C-470 will now have to scrap for funds.
T-REX even helped pay for freeway expansions and upgrades in the connector streets nearby. These improvements will ease traffic flow regionwide.
Coordination between project officials, government authorities and business leaders also helped T-REX move forward smoothly. Outside parties met with T-REX officials regularly. As a result, commercial and residential development was modified to conform with rail lines and road expansion.
New homes and businesses are being situated to entice rail passengers to shop and live near the corridor. Pedestrian bridges span I-25, linking parking lots, train stations and commercial properties. Spiffy new condominium projects have already opened near the south end of the I-25 rail line, a short walk from train stations.
Without question, a few pitfalls remain. There's not enough parking near rail stations to handle the anticipated passenger volume, which may exceed 15,000 on weekdays in each direction by year's end. Less than a sixth of the 7,500 new spaces are situated north of Hampden Avenue. And there are only 59 spaces for commuters at the major transfer station at Belleview Avenue.
RTD has re-routed bus lines so that they feed directly to rail stations. Some commuters who own cars will be patient enough to catch a bus which will travel to a light rail station, where they must then transfer to a train. It's just as likely, though, that many will shrug when facing such delays and drive to their destinations.
We'll see, beginning next week when the first weekday rush hour unfolds.
Today, though, we applaud the timely completion of the project. Thanks to the vision and perseverance of Gov. Bill Owens, CDOT officials and RTD chief Cal Marsella, long-overdue highway improvements and new rail capacity will make the daily drive for thousands of metro residents less of a headache.
We couldn't have said it better!
Here's wishing the construction industry of Mountain America a happy and prosperous new year!