Letter to the Editor: Improvements too costly for highway

Dear Editor:
CDOT and their contractor, Elam Construction, completed a nice improvement to 3-plus miles of SH13 south of Meeker last fall. Unfortunately, due to expensive roadside barriers and retaining walls, the cost of the project exceeded $3 million a mile. That a simple two-lane rural highway in a lightly populated area could cost that much is mind-boggling. Here are ways the costs could have been reduced.
1. High barriers were built along the shoulders to avoid cutting into the hillside. Modest cuts could have eliminated the need for barriers, or the alignment could have been slid a few feet to the west requiring more encroachment into a dry wash where retaining walls were already necessary. In fact, most or all of these retaining walls might have been eliminated by modest channel changes. Apparently, these features were incorporated because of fear over the authority of the state Department of Health over storm water runoff, which in this case would run into a dry wash, not a pristine fishing steam! Authority given the DofH is a good example of over regulation by the federal government.
2. A lot of money was spent designing and building a “tie-back” wall where bedrock was exposed. In the “old days” we would have cut the slope back at a 1/2:1 ratio and perhaps widened the ditch a little.
3. Because of the expense for building these concrete structures the length of new pavement laid down had to be shortened resulting in a 40,000 cubic yard of excess dirt being piled at the south end of the project, dirt that will have to be picked on the next project at a cost of $100,000 or more. Wasted money.
When I worked for CDOT we were required to seek economical solutions to design problems. That philosophy has apparently been been discarded in this age of very scarce highway modernization funds. Now, those of us who travel this roadway, are exposed to roadside obstructions, a safety problem brought on by the Colorado Department of Health!
Dick Prosence,
District Engineer, retired
Meeker, CO

Improvements too costly for highwayDear Editor:CDOT and their contractor, Elam Construction, completed a nice improvement to 3-plus miles of SH13 south of Meeker last fall. Unfortunately, due to expensive roadside barriers and retaining walls, the cost of the project exceeded $3 million a mile. That a simple two-lane rural highway in a lightly populated area could cost that much is mind-boggling. Here are ways the costs could have been reduced.1. High barriers were built along the shoulders to avoid cutting into the hillside. Modest cuts could have eliminated the need for barriers, or the alignment could have been slid a few feet to the west requiring more encroachment into a dry wash where retaining walls were already necessary. In fact, most or all of these retaining walls might have been eliminated by modest channel changes. Apparently, these features were incorporated because of fear over the authority of the state Department of Health over storm water runoff, which in this case would run into a dry wash, not a pristine fishing steam! Authority given the DofH is a good example of over regulation by the federal government.2. A lot of money was spent designing and building a “tie-back” wall where bedrock was exposed. In the “old days” we would have cut the slope back at a 1/2:1 ratio and perhaps widened the ditch a little.3. Because of the expense for building these concrete structures the length of new pavement laid down had to be shortened resulting in a 40,000 cubic yard of excess dirt being piled at the south end of the project, dirt that will have to be picked on the next project at a cost of $100,000 or more. Wasted money.When I worked for CDOT we were required to seek economical solutions to design problems. That philosophy has apparently been been discarded in this age of very scarce highway modernization funds. Now, those of us who travel this roadway, are exposed to roadside obstructions, a safety problem brought on by the Colorado Department of Health!Dick Prosence, District Engineer, retiredMeeker, CO

1 Comment

  1. I hadn’t noticed that highway 13 was lightly traveled; not to mention the deer and elk. . .

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