The Colorado Department of Transportation has accused its contractor on the $276 million C-470 expansion of misleading the agency about significant delays. The project’s completion has been pushed back to at least the end of the year.
Workers broke ground on the 12.5-mile stretch of C-470 in the southwest edge of the Denver metro in 2016. In late 2018, the two parties agreed on a completion date of Aug. 1, 2019.
Now, the highway is not expected to be done until somewhere between December 2019 and June 2020. CDOT says work is about 83 percent done and continues.
“We intend to have this project completed as soon as possible to eliminate the inconveniences to the traveling public,” CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew said in a statement. “We have been taking steps to protect the interests of taxpayers as concerns over this project have grown, and this latest step will further protect the state’s financial interests and do what is necessary to get this job done.”
CDOT sent its contractor, a joint venture of Broomfield-based Flatiron and California-based AECOM, a formal notice of default on Aug. 2. That could lead to the removal of the contractor from the project entirely, or the contractor could be allowed to continue with additional oversight.
In its notice of default, CDOT alleges that the contractor provided “false and materially misleading representation” on the progress it was making on the project.
One such instance, CDOT says, came when the contractor requested a 103-day extension because of adverse weather in late June, just 37 days before the project’s due date. But as late as May 14, CDOT says the contractor said they could meet the August deadline.
“CDOT repeatedly provided comments and expressed concerns regarding F | A’s ability to achieve the required Project Completion Deadlines,” Mike Keleman, CDOT’s project director wrote to the contractor. “F | A failed to adequately address CDOT’s comments and concerns and continually misrepresented in the Contract Schedules that they were able to meet the required Project Completion Deadlines.”
CDOT's chief engineer Joshua Laipply said the agency did its due diligence before awarding the contract.
“This is a qualified contractor, ” he said in an interview. “They have all the skills and abilities to perform this work. Why it was not completed, I'm sure they will have their assertions. I believe they could have done it, and they didn't. ”
Wendy J. Wiedenbeck, a spokeswoman for Flatiron and AECOM, said the company "strongly reject(s) any suggestion that F/A gave misleading information to CDOT."
"Unprecedented weather during the 2019 winter/spring season impacted the job significantly preventing Flatiron/AECOM from achieving progress in accordance with the schedule agreed upon in December 2018," the statement from Wiedenbeck continued. "Therefore, Flatiron/AECOM disagrees with CDOT’s Declaration of Default. Flatiron/AECOM remains able and fully committed to completing the project in the earliest possible time and looks forward to cooperating with CDOT to achieve that result."
CDOT and the contractor plan to meet with the project’s bondholder to determine a course of action later this month.
“Please be patient with us. We're trying to do everything we can,” Laipply said. “All the steps we're taking right now are what we see as the best path forward to get this road opened and delivered safely for the public.”
When complete, the project will add two westbound express lanes from Interstate 25 to Colorado Boulevard, one westbound express lane from Colorado to Wadsworth Boulevard, and one eastbound express lane from the South Platte River to I-25. The roadway will still have two general-purpose lanes in each direction.
CDOT projected the rebuilt roadway will save westbound express lane commuters 18 minutes during peak evening hours. About 100,000 drivers use the segment now, according to the Denver Regional Council of Governments’ traffic counts. CDOT expects that to rise by 40 percent by 2035.