Budget jumps $5M for walkable street
Denver is preparing to shell out $5 million more for a marquee project that will overhaul Brighton Boulevard, turning it into a walkable street through the burgeoning area branded as River North.
The budget increase was disclosed Tuesday when officials asked a City Council committee to advance a proposal authorizing the transfer of that amount from the city’s general fund contingency account. That will put the total project budget at $41 million, said Anna Jones, who heads the city’s North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative office, which is overseeing the project.
The new increase is on top of $2.5 million already added for the project in the capital improvements portion of the city’s recently approved 2017 budget.
City officials blame several factors: a recent escalation in construction costs, an offer by a contractor to speed up construction of part of the project by a year and an expansion of the scope after several developers along Brighton agreed to give up more right-of-way for street and sidewalk improvements. Jones said the last factor, which added $2.5 million, gave the city a chance to take advantage of opportunities that will improve the project.
The Finance and Government Committee sent the proposal to the full council for consideration in coming weeks after its members scrutinized the budget change.
“We still have eaten up every bit of contingency, the savings (proposed by contractors) and now we’re asking for more. Is this going to stop?” Councilman Rafael Espinoza asked.
City budget director Stephanie Adams and other officials defended the changes. They expressed more confidence in the estimates now that they have finalized the project’s scope.
Kiewit Infrastructure, the contractor on the first of two phases of the project, broke ground in October. Both phases call for installing sidewalks, protected bike lanes, street lights, upgraded signals and street parking along Brighton — now a road through a former industrial zone — between 29th and 44th streets, with Kiewit’s portion done by early 2018.
The project includes $3.5 million provided by Denver Water to replace an aging water line through that stretch, according to a meeting presentation. And businesses and property owners in the area agreed to tax themselves and are kicking in $2.8 million for project enhancements.
The city is still working out plans for improvements to Brighton north of 44th, along the edge of the National Western Center project.
Kiewit also has an overarching management contract to oversee the Brighton Boulevard project as well as other streets projects and a major storm sewer plan in the area.
Under the terms of that contract, Kiewit has to solicit competing bids for each component. The city selected Kiewit for the first phase of the Brighton project, officials told the council committee, and it plans to award the second phase to Ames Construction. Ames also won a bid for part of the Globeville Landing Outfall storm sewer project.