Colo.’s First Stimulus Highway Projects Start

Sun June 28, 2009 - West Edition
Colleen Slevin - Associated Press




LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) Colorado began spending its $400 million transportation stimulus money on new highway projects May 19, starting with a $1.2 million paving project south of Denver.

Gov. Bill Ritter attended a groundbreaking ceremony for that project in Littleton as workers began curbing and sewer work on the sidewalk along Belleview Avenue behind him.

In western Colorado, repaving work also began May 19 along a 22-mi. (35 km) stretch of Colorado 62 over Dallas Divide near Ridgway, a scenic stretch of the San Juan Skyway. The entire project will cost $11.2 million with $4 million coming from the federal stimulus package.

Ridgway town manager Greg Clifton said residents were willing to put up with a cone zone during the busy summer tourist season to get the road fixed. He said it has holes and cracks big enough to swallow the rim of a bicycle.

“We’re grateful that this is occurring out here in Ouray County,” he said.

Workers also are preparing to replace or repair concrete slabs on about 3 mi. (4.8 km) of Interstate 70 in Arvada west of Denver at a cost of $1.8 million.

The state transportation department estimated that 30 people will be employed on the Littleton job, although the main contractor, Maryland-based Aggregate Industries, estimates the total could be closer to 50 when subcontractors hired for support work like traffic control, erosion prevention and striping are taken into account.

Aggregate has regional offices in Golden and is owned by Swiss concrete giant Holcim Ltd. It also is working on stimulus-funded projects in Maryland and has supplied materials for stimulus work in Illinois, North Dakota and Minnesota, Aggregate spokesman Derek Young said.

It will have 15 employees already on the company’s payroll working on the Littleton job. It may hire two more people but that may be difficult because the job will only last a month, a relatively short construction job.

Aggregate also has hired eight subcontractors, a mix of medium and small firms. One of the smaller ones is P.A.A. Concrete & Earthwork, a family-operated company from Thornton that just hired four employees after winning the stimulus work, its first government job.

It now has a total of 12 employees, and Jose Aguirre of Aurora, whose sister-in-law owns the company, said they’ll hire more if they get more stimulus work.

Aguirre said the jobs pay better than most construction jobs because the federal government requires contractors to pay prevailing wage. That means laborers get $22 an hour rather than the $8 to $12 normally paid in the area.

“They just want to work, but who doesn’t want to get paid more?” Aguirre said of the company’s workers.

Colorado is getting about $400 million for highway projects and another $103 million for mass transit from the stimulus package.

The federal government requires that the state commit to spending at least 30 percent of the highway money by the end of June. The state met that deadline a month early and so far has plans to spend $163 million — about 40 percent of the money — on 32 projects.

About $8 million in stimulus money is already being spent to supplement work on an existing project on Interstate 25 near Trinidad. The Littleton and Ridgway projects are the first new projects financed with stimulus money.