Last month, torrential rains devastated northern Colorado in what has been called a 1,000-year-flood. Today, under an emergency repair contract, a Skanska joint venture is reconstructing a 14-mile stretch of State Highway 7 – not far from Denver – that was badly damaged when an adjacent river crested its banks.
Their work requires moving boulders the size of school buses that rolled down a mountain, cleaning up oil and fuel leaked by cars washed away in the floodwaters, understanding a project that initially – given its emergency nature – didn’t have the normal plans and specifications from which to work, and navigating a jobsite that takes 160 miles and three-and-a-half hours to drive from one end to the other. That lengthy detour is required because not only is S.H. 7 impassible because so much of it has washed away, but surrounding roads also cannot be traversed.
Skanska’s task is to make its assigned section of the road passable at least for one lane of traffic by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s deadline of December 1. They plan to surpass that goal and have large sections of road open by then to its usual configuration of two lanes, one in each direction.
To meet that aggressive deadline, our team of 35 people is working seven days a week in two, 10-hour shifts. Equipment on site from all over our Western operations includes excavators, bulldozers, loaders and off-road dump trucks, typically six of each. Some of that is being used to funnel the Saint Vrain River back into its original channel so the road can be rebuilt.
Advertised and awarded in one week
Given this emergency, the procurement was extremely quick. The project was advertised on Tuesday, Sept 17. The pre-bid meeting was the next day, and proposals were due by 7 a.m. that Friday. At 5 p.m. that Saturday, we received the call that we had won one of the four road repair projects. On Sunday, Sept. 22, the day after we got that notification call, we landed 11 people in Denver to begin meeting with the Colorado Department of Transportation and understanding the project. Our team began repair operations on Sept. 30.
Understanding the project is an understatement: Many specifics were not available during the proposal process, as there were many unknowns along the route. Procurement, however, couldn’t wait until those were known. We were selected based on our past experience with emergency work done on a time and materials basis in rugged terrain, in which we beat the schedule and stayed within budget.
“We didn’t even know what the scope of the work was other than to fix roads,” said Dan Howell, Skanska business development manager said.
Despite the strenuous work and rapid pace of the project, the Skanska team knows their efforts are helping the local community recover.
“Everywhere we go, the locals come up and shake our hands and thank us for being there,” Howell said. “This should be a good, positive experience.”