The second year of a five-year gas-line replacement project will begin this spring in Leadville/Lake County, and talks are underway to make this coming year run more smoothly than the first year of the project.
Problems encountered last year, according to an Xcel Energy handout, included large rocks, which made boring difficult and required a switch to digging trenches as an alternative in some areas. Meters needed to be moved and services re-routed to the west or south sides of buildings to avoid drips. Gas main renewals needed to be moved from alleys to streets due to space constraints in the alleys.
In all, the project is about a half year behind schedule, said Steve Martz, Xcel director of gas engineering.
There are 35,000 miles of pipeline in the Leadville/Lake County system, Martz pointed out, saying the 1950s distribution system “concerns me so much.”
On Friday, Jan. 31, Xcel representatives and others met with the Lake County Board of County Commissioners, other county employees and Leadville representatives to get a start on the upcoming season.
The biggest concern for 2020, according to Leadville Director of Administrative Services Sarah Dallas, is coordinating the Xcel project with the upcoming Colorado Department of Transportation paving project in downtown Leadville. Once new asphalt is laid, the city doesn’t want to see it torn up for the Xcel project.
CDOT’s project initially consists of rebuilding about 80 ADA street ramps along Harrison Avenue, and then extending the project east on Ninth St. and along Poplar to the Mountain View intersection. This portion of the project will begin in May of this year.
The actual U.S. 24 paving project will go from the intersection at Mountain View, run through downtown and extend south to McWethy Drive. It is scheduled for late September and early October. This will include an intersection redesign at Harrison and Ninth so that it is a smooth bend in both directions.
The Xcel work in 2020 consists of installing a gas main along Ridgeview between Mountain View Drive and Sawatch Drive, east of Mt. Massive Dr., and along several U.S. 24 crossings. It will also will involve some replacement of natural gas meters on private property. The 2020 phase includes finishing up what had originally been planned for 2019.
Complaints about the 2019 phase included trenching without proper signage and flaggers, and issues with heavy equipment operating in the area of West Park Elementary School during school hours, according to Brad Palmer, Lake County director of Public Works.
Palmer said that when there were issues, he’d have to call Denver and try to get a reply. This often proved impossible, he said.
Commission Chair Kayla Marcella said the county is grateful for the new infrastructure, but the lack of coordination last year was a “real hit to the gut.”
Dallas stressed that weekly check-ins are needed in coming construction years, and these must be shared with the community.
Leadville Mayor Greg Labbe questioned whether requiring Xcel to repave roads that are torn up is a contractual issue, and was told it needs to be part of the permitting process.
Joel Berschauer, a CDOT permit coordinator who attended the meeting by phone, said that if a project changes from boring to trenching, it should be shut down because permits are required for trenching.
“Contractors will be doing it the easiest and cheapest way,” he said. “If they are allowed to trench, you need terms and conditions.”
Kelly Flenniken, Xcel area manager of community and local government affairs, discussed the ways the company plans to communicate during the second year of the project. An early project overview meeting will be held and a 24-hour project hotline will be available. Xcel will host an open house for residents and stakeholders, something that was not done before. Letters, door hangers and social media are all part of the plan as well.
Weekly meetings were stressed. Last year there were no meetings, Palmer said.
Tentative plans were made to meet weekly on the Xcel project on Thursdays at 11 a.m.