February 2019--On February 13, bonds were issued to provide funding for the 72nd Ave. and Ralston Road projects. During the next several months, the City's consultant team will begin performing field work to include topographic and right-of-way surveys, geo-technical drilling, environmental investigations and utility locating. Coordination efforts are continuing with stakeholders, including the Union Pacific Railroad, Xcel Energy, etc. Updates regarding the progress of the projects will be provided here and on all the City's communication platforms.
Note: The grant-funded portion of the Ralston Road improvements--Wadsworth to Yukon--will begin spring of 2019.
In the November 6, 2018 election, Arvada residents approved Ballot Issue 3F for a bond issue to fund improvements to Ralston Road and W. 72nd Ave.
How do these projects figure into the City Council priority areas?
Projects align and contribute to all priority areas identified in the City Council Strategic Plan: Growth and Economic Development, Infrastructure, Vibrant Community and Neighborhoods, Organizational and Service Effectiveness, and Safe Community.
How long have you known about these project needs?
The City of Arvada has known about the need to complete these projects for approximately 20 years. In the 1980s, the City initiated a long-range planning process called the Comprehensive Plan to forecast, plan, and manage growth. These long-range forecasts are adjusted every 10 years based on updated population (census) data, economic trends, and public input. In the early 2000s, engineering consultants reviewed the City’s transportation plan and completed technical work to study property impacts as a result of various roadway widening projects identified in previous plans. In 2004, the Comprehensive Plan was updated and confirmed the transportation improvement needs for W 72nd Ave and Ralston Road. The latest 2014 update to the Comprehensive Plan (forecasting conditions for 2045) generated transportation models indicating that the congestion, operation, and safety of W 72nd Ave. and Ralston Road will be deteriorating in the near term with the build-out of the City, and the roadways will be performing at the lowest levels of service.
Are there studies that prove these project improvements will decrease traffic congestion in Arvada?
Yes. In an effort to properly manage growth, the City of Arvada conducts major citywide technical studies every 10 years to evaluate land-use patterns, transportation infrastructure, and public amenities and services through a coordinated plan known as the Comprehensive Plan. In 2014, the Comprehensive Plan studied transportation conditions and generated updated information based on new (census) demographic data, regional employment trends, and transportation information. The transportation models in the 2014 update of the Comprehensive Plan (similar to the previous 2004 update) showed that several major arterial corridors including W. 72nd Ave. and Ralston Road are congested and require capacity and operational enhancements to support the City’s mobility needs. The study results show that increasing the number of roadway lanes, adding turn lanes at intersections, updating traffic signals, and creating safe roadside environments for pedestrians and cyclists will improve the operation of the roadways and decrease traffic congestion. Additionally, improvements to W. 72nd Ave. and Ralston Road will help keep regional traffic on the regional roads and reduce cut-through traffic on neighborhood collector roadways and local residential streets.
What would happen to traffic during construction on these and other roads?
The City of Arvada requires construction activity on roadways to be limited to off-peak hours (8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.) to avoid rush-hour traffic. Additionally, the City prohibits the full closure of roadways unless an emergency condition requires it. That being said, construction activity on streets can create traffic congestion. To ensure that the construction disruption is minimal, contractors are required to work within the City’s traffic control parameters by supplying off-duty officers at major intersections and certifiec flaggers within construction zones.
When would projects begin and be completed?
Designing and engineering the W. 72nd Ave. project from Kipling St. to Simms St. will take approximately two years. The right-of-way acquisition process is anticipated to take about a year, working with affected property owners to negotiate fair market value for the property needed. Regarding construction, once a contractor is selected construction will take one to two years. In total, we plan on completing the project within a five-year time period. Our goal would be to start in 2019 with project completion anticipated by 2024.
Why do you need to issue debt?
In 2018, the City will finish payment on a previously issued bond, freeing up $4.5 million annually. Since, by charter, the City of Arvada is required to spend 60% of each $.01 of sales tax revenues on capital improvements (or toward the repayment of debt related to capital improvements), and the $4.5 million is included in that, this money must be spent on capital projects. The previously issued bond was utilized for capital projects. Debt re-authorization means voters agree to allow the money from the previous bond to be applied to a new bond and the funds used for the new capital improvement projects.
How many years would it take to cash fund the projects?
It is estimated it would take over two decades to build up enough funding to complete the projects, and they would be more expensive due to inflation.
How much more will the projects cost if you wait until you have the money to cash fund them?
Funded now, the City could borrow money at less than 3.5%, a much lower rate than ongoing inflation of road construction costs. If the City were to wait to cash finance these two projects, because of the time it would take to do so and accounting for inflation, the total projects cost would go from $79.8 million to $122 million.
What other sources of funding do you have for these projects?
Grant funds will continue to be pursued for both projects. This includes Federal Railroad funds and transportation grants.
If the debt reauthorization passes, will the money definitely be allocated to these two projects?
Yes. The projects communicated in the ballot language are the projects that will be funded.
What other projects were at the top of the CCIPC list? And why did you choose these two?
The 2014-15 the Citizens Capital Improvement Plan Committee (CCIPC) was directed by Arvada City Council to prioritize capital projects such as transportation infrastructure, City utilities, public buildings, parks and other capital infrastructure needs from a citizen perspective. The CCIPC developed evaluation criteria and discussed funding strategies to recommend to the Arvada City Council. A list of 19 priority projects was created and is available on the first page of the report.
The CCIPC identified transportation assets as the most critical needs and set transportation improvements as the highest priorities from their overall priority list. The top priority project identified was the Ralston Road Corridor plan, and given that W. 72nd Ave. is considered an important transportation corridor, improvements at two key locations on W 72nd Ave. were identified as high priority.
Why don’t you widen W. 80th Ave. instead?
W. 80th Ave. was considered as a possible widening project; however, it was not selected for several reasons:
- Along significant sections of W. 80th Ave., there is no existing public right-of-way to accommodate a widened road. Acquisition of the right of way would be extensive both in terms of time and cost.
- Many sections of W. 80th Ave. are in unincorporated Jefferson County. In contrast, all of the sections of W. 72nd Ave. being considered for widening are within City limits.
- W. 72nd Ave. is more centrally located than W. 80th Ave., and therefore is a more viable travel choice for people traversing the City.
- W. 86th Ave. is only ¾ mile away from W. 80th Ave., providing a reasonable alternative for cross-town travel to W. 80th Ave.
Why don't you widen Indiana St.?
Indiana St. is a State HIghway (SH 72) and therefore falls under the authority of the Colorado Department of transportation (CDOT). Furthermore, Indiana St. has significant geometric problems that would require extensive reconstruction, thereby limiting the amount of actual widening that could happen.
However, the City of Arvada is by no means ignoring Indiana St. In June of 2018 the City commenced an intersection improvement project at W. 72nd Ave. and Indiana St. that will add capacity and eliminate one of Arvada’s major bottlenecks. In 2017, the City applied for Federal funding to improve Indiana St. with an emphasis on widening the underpass beneath the Union Pacific railroad bridge. While we were not successful in that grant application we will continue to pursue other opportunities and believe grant funding will be available in the future.
Why can't you improve W. 72nd Ave. all the way to Indiana St. rather than stopping at Simms St.?
The cost to increase the W. 72nd Ave. project to go from Kipling St. to Indiana St. (rather than to Simms St. as proposed) would be $98.5 million as opposed to $64.5 million. The City simply does not have the bonding capacity to fund the entire project.
How will residents who live on the W. 70th Drive cul de sac (just west of Kipling St.) access their neighborhood during and after improvements to W. 72nd Ave.?
The final lane configuration for W. 72nd Ave. will include a left turn lane for turns into W. 70th Dr. and full movement access from W. 70th Dr. to W. 72nd. Ave.
Access to the neighborhood from W. 72nd Ave. will absolutely be maintained during construction. Prior to beginning work the contractor will need to design a traffic control plan that must be approved by the City showing how they will maintain access. It is possible that access would on occasion be limited to right turn in/right turn out only during construction, but every effort will be made to keep this to a minimum. Emergency responders will be kept up to date as traffic lanes shift.
Why would you have to take people’s land?
The City strives to design and build its projects and improvements within its own right-of-way (ROW),property that the City owns or has rights to; however, some projects or improvements simply cannot be constructed within the City’s existing ROW. In these circumstances a purchase or acquisition of land or other property rights from private property owners is needed.
Private property rights are protected by both the Colorado and United States Constitutions. To provide uniform and equitable treatment for those whose property is acquired and for persons displaced by such acquisitions, Congress passed the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (“Uniform Act”). When acquiring ROW for a project the City follows the fundamental principles of the Uniform Act and is committed to treating all persons with fairness and respect. For instance, an approved appraisal will be relied on as the basis for the amount of just compensation to be offered for the real property that the City needs for a project. This amount will never be less than the fair market value established by the approved appraisal.
City representatives have already been in contact with property owners where it is anticipated that their properties will be acquired in order to construct the underpass at the Union Pacific Railroad and W. 72nd Ave.
Will the train run during construction?
Yes, the train will run during construction. In order to facilitate this, we will construct a temporary track alignment known as a “shoefly.” The train will run on this temporary alignment until the final structure and track system is constructed.
Why an underpass (grade separation) - why not simply add lanes (at-grade improvement)?
Expanding the at-grade crossing was discussed with UPRR; however, UPRR informed City staff that they have an unwritten policy that in order to expand a crossing, TWO existing crossings must be eliminated. Arvada does not have two existing crossings of the UPRR that could be eliminated.
Staff also consulted with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) which is the ultimate authority associated with regulations for at-grade crossings. Based on PUC rules a crossing qualifies for grade separation (underpass) when the “exposure” threshold is 75,000 (exposure threshold is calculated by the number of trains multiplied by the annual average daily traffic (ADT) on the roadway).
The number of trains per day at 72nd Ave. is 18. The ADT at 72nd Ave. is 18,586. That multiplies to an “exposure” of 334,548, 4.46 times greater than the “exposure” threshold of 75,000. Build-out traffic projections nearly double that amount. (This information may be found beginning on page 14 of this PUC document.)
Finally, the existing condition is an obstacle for emergency responders. With population growth west of the railroad crossing and average daily trips increasing, the need for emergency responders to have uninterrupted access in order to respond to accidents, police calls for service and similar incidents is very apparent. Safety for motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and emergency responders is paramount.
City staff and the City Council firmly conclude that expanding W. 72nd Avenue should include a grade separation (underpass).
How accurate is the $53 million estimate that includes the underpass?
The $53M estimate is as accurate as can be provided at this stage of the project. The City contracted with Muller Engineering to complete a preliminary design for the section of W. 72nd Ave. from Kipling St. to Quail St that included a preliminary structural design for the railroad bridge. That project was completed in 2017 and included a cost estimate as part of the scope of work. The plans were also reviewed by Union Pacific Railroad so the City has a relatively high level of confidence that the plans provided put us on the right track with the railroad. Staff has met with the railroad and understands their requirements. The estimate also includes some assumptions of costs that are difficult to determine up front. Most relate to design costs, property acquisition costs, environmental compliance costs, etc. Ultimately the $53 million is a solid effort to estimate the costs based on past experiences with these types of projects.
Why so much for this one project? Why has the 72nd Avenue RR crossing become the top road improvement priority for the city?
That is a big price; however, the roadway could not function at the most efficient levels if the underpass was not included. W. 72nd Avenue is an arterial parkway and currently, and at build-out, carries more traffic east-west across the City than W. 80th and is close to Ralston Road. The project was highly ranked by the Capital Improvements Project Committee as one that should be studied at the estimated cost of $400,000. The City Council elected not expend $400,000 for this project until such time that it was prioritized as an improvement the City was serious about completing. Completing improvements without the underpass would be inefficient and require a future project at a far higher cost.
What if the project goes over budget?
In December 2017, the City’s design consultant completed preliminary design of W. 72nd Ave. from Kipling St. to Quail St. This preliminary design incorporates all of the major elements that are a part of the proposed W. 72nd Ave. project that is on the November ballot. This includes the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) bridge over W. 72nd Ave., reconstruction and widening the road to arterial roadway standards, railroad shoofly, roadway shoofly, utility relocations, storm sewer construction, etc. The overall project budget was based on the detailed cost estimate that was prepared with the preliminary design and also included costs for final design, right-of-way acquisition, construction and a minimum of 15% contingencies.
City staff will be interviewing qualified and experienced design consultants and will choose a firm that can deliver a quality, timely and cost effective final design. Throughout the final design, staff plans to work closely with its consultant to identify areas for cost savings, i.e. reducing retaining wall heights by using slope paving or considering top-down wall construction. Also as a cost saving measure, the team will investigate the possibility of other funding sources including with the UPRR through the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
Considering all of these factors, staff is confident that the project will stay within budget. However, if the City encounters unforeseen condition(s) during construction and it appears that the project will go over budget, the City has some options to take. First, the City will review the most cost effective solutions to resolve the unforeseen condition and determine if the costs can be covered with project contingencies. If it is unavoidable that the project will still go over budget, the City will review elements of the project that could be removed from the contract or revised. As an example, the City could consider removing the sidewalk on one side of the street and defer the construction of the sidewalk to a later date. If removing or revising items in the contract is not a possibility, the City can find funding by delaying other projects, tapping one-time funds, or using fund balance reserves.
If Federal Funds reduce the cost to the taxpayers, or if the PUC requires UPRR to pay up to half the cost, what happens to the resulting surplus money?
Staff tracks availability of Federal Funds, and we have determined that it is not likely that we will receive such funding from a grant. W. 72nd is not on the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) constrained plan which is a plan that prioritizes funding for capital projects on a regional level. The PUC may require the UPRR to pay up to 50% of the cost to build the grade separation only, and staff will submit the application for these funds to the PUC as part of the project once all plans are completed. If the PUC were to require the UPRR to participate, it is typical for the railroad to do annual reimbursements of the cost, so Arvada would need to pay for all the work before any railroad money would be contributed. The reimbursements could be used to pay down the balance more quickly, thus saving interest costs for our taxpayers. However, we cannot assume that we will receive these funds and therefore have not factored them into the resources available for the project. Final determination of how these funds would impact the project would be considered by the City Council during business meetings that would allow citizens to be part of the process. Additionally, the ballot language required by TABOR requires public financing measures to assume the maximum expenditures for bond projects. The ballot language for this measure reflects this requirement.
Are the UPRR trains really causing significant automobile traffic problems on W. 72nd Avenue, Kipling, or Oak streets?
UPRR has stated that rail traffic on the rail line that crosses W. 72nd Avenue averages 18 trains per day. Build-out traffic projections for W. 72nd Avenue is 32,000 average daily traffic. As previously stated, the combination of the number of daily trains and vehicle trips shows W. 72nd Avenue to be a highly traveled arterial roadway. The City believes that this improvement is necessary to ensure safety for motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and emergency responders which is the foundation of the final decision by the City Council to place this measure on the ballot and allow the voters to ultimately determine the outcome.
Will the work on W. 72nd Ave. fix flooding problems?
During major rain and snow events, areas along W. 72nd Ave. experience significant flooding issues. The improvements to W. 72nd Ave. between Kipling St. and Simms St. will also include drainage improvements to eliminate these flooding issues.
What will the impact be to properties along Ralston Road and will sidewalks be expanded on both sides of the road to accommodate cyclists?
After an extensive planning process with members of the public, the City of Arvada completed a conceptual layout of the roadway and met with each property owner along Ralston Road to discuss the widening impacts. As a result of the one-on-one meetings, the City has modified its roadway plans to ensure that no buildings are impacted and each property can function with reduced parking lots/frontages in exchange for wide sidewalks. The majority of the property owners have been in favor of the safety enhancements to Ralston Road and the sidewalks when presented with the conceptual engineering drawings during the one-on-one meetings. The plan calls for sidewalk improvements on both sides of Ralston Road and will be similar to a 8' to 10' trail that can accommodate cyclists.
For questions about Two Big Projects. No New Taxes, please contact The City's Engineering Division at 720-898-7640.