Lisa from Denver writes, “What is driving you crazy? Morning Jayson, Blake street has been a mess for a LONG time with construction making it one lane off and on from 35th to 15th. How long it’s going to go on and is there a website to check for updates?”
At first I suspected the work had to do with all the waste water and drainage improvements we have seen lately by Denver Public Works. However, that work along Blake is part of a huge Xcel Energy project to replace the underground natural gas lines in the northern part of downtown Denver. Included in this project are at least four additional natural gas tie-ins to individual customers.
The work is being handled in two phases. Phase I is from 18th to 21st streets and Phase II is from 21st to 36th streets. As Xcel’s Mark Stutz tells me, they originally started the work late last summer,
“We were relying primarily on underground directional boring, with some open cuts at service loops (service loops are services to customer premises). Unfortunately, the first effort was unsuccessful, due to large numbers of unmarked and unknown underground utilities and other sub-surface issues, and was stopped in late November as part of a city moratorium on construction during the holidays,” Stutz says.
Xcel restarted the project in January with the hopes of being completed within two to three months. However, as Stutz explains, the work has been much more challenging than they first expected. “This area is very heavily impacted with telecommunications, water and sewer, in addition to Xcel Energy’s existing facilities. In several cases, we’ve run into underground facilities that took a great deal of time to determine ownership; some of these facilities have simply been abandoned over the years. In addition, we have in locations had to abandon underground boring in favor of open trenching”.
While Xcel is doing this work, Denver Public Works and other contractors have been doing work in this area on Blake as well as on other streets which also has impacted traffic. Xcel is also trying to help by not doing any work during any Colorado Rockies homes games. Shutting down work and minimize traffic issues at least three hours prior to any home game.
Stutz tells me the current plan to complete the underground connections from 18th to 24th streets along Blake Street, during this week, June 25-30. “Restoration in this area, to at least original surface conditions, should take approximately two weeks upon completion of this work. We will be working from 36th to 26th streets along Blake Street (back from 36th Street) until approximately November. We are not doing any work from 24th to 26th streets along Blake Street, and we also are not working from 15th to 18th streets on Blake Street”.
Another issue around road projects is parking and that is no exception here. In order for Xcel to do their work they need to have the streets free of parked cars so the meters in the area have been bagged. Owners of the local businesses, especially the bars, have been very upset with the lack of street parking for their customers. Many report that business is down significantly since the work started.
Stutz explains the bagged meters can not be opened even when it seems that no work is going on. “We are required to follow a process where the meters are requested to be bagged one week prior to the expected work, with multiple requests if weeks are consecutive. Even if we find out later in the week that our work had been delayed, we cannot remove the bags. It is our understanding that the bags cannot be removed by anyone other than the appropriate city operations, although we’d certainly be willing to make some different arrangements until our work is completed, and would be willing to discuss those options. We also know that there have been some weeks when the bags have been left on the meters this spring and summer, even when Xcel Energy did not make the request to close down street parking, and may have not made any requests for several weeks”.
As for a website to check for progress, Xcel has a general page but nothing that updates when roads will be open or closed from day to day. But there are some helpful phone numbers on there so you can get a hold of someone 24 hours a day.
Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 20 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Podbean or YouTube.