DALLAS – The Colorado Department of Transportation awarded the $1.2 billion redevelopment of Interstate 70 through north Denver to a consortium known as Kiewit Meridiam Partners Thursday.
The redevelopment of 10 miles of viaduct through Denver and its suburbs is the largest project in CDOT's history.
"In terms of milestones, this one is pretty big," said David Spector, director of CDOT's High Performance Transportation Enterprise, a division responsible for public-private partnerships.
Although financing plans have not been completed, Spector said the deal will include issuance of private activity bonds from the conduit Colorado Bridge Enterprise and about $319 million of milestone payments from CDOT. KMP is expected to have at least a 10% equity stake and will operate the project under a 30-year contract.
KMP was one of four teams of builders and engineering firms bidding for the contract. The others were 5280 Contractors, Front Range Mobility Group and Mile High Partners.
KMP was chosen in part for its timetable for the project and plans to minimize disruptions to the neighborhoods, said CDOT chief executive Shailen Bhatt.
“Their construction approach shaves a full construction season off CDOT's construction schedule, and their commitment to hire at least 20% of their workforce from the community is backed up with a strong recruitment and training program," Bhatt said.
Contract negotiations will begin shortly, with KMP expected to be fully on board by 2018, following financial close this winter, Spector said. Construction will begin in spring 2018, and will take four years to complete under the KMP schedule. Early goals include renovations to Swansea Elementary School, utility relocations and property acquisitions to prepare for construction.
The Central 70 Project will replace the aging viaduct that bisects – and, some say, blights -- north Denver and its suburbs. The industrialized area that includes the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo Complex is expected to become more visually appealing with elimination of the raised interstate.
The project will add one express lane in each direction from Brighton Boulevard to Chambers Road and includes removing the 53-year old viaduct, lowering a section of I-70 below the current street grade and constructing a four-acre park over the interstate.
About 1,200 businesses line the corridor, which is a regional connection to Denver International Airport as well as a national east-west corridor. More than 200,000 vehicles per day use the interstate.
In February 2015, CDOT's High Performance Transportation Enterprise Board and the Transportation Commission decided to pursue a Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain delivery model for the Central 70 Project.
"Each progressive version of the project contract has been made available to the public on the project website over the course of the procurement process," Spector said.
A record of decision, completing a 14‐year study process, was released Jan. 19, 2017, approving the project for construction, which should begin in early 2018.
Construction of the park over I-70 is a companion project to the bond-funded $1.1 billion redevelopment of the National Western Complex. Denver is in an eminent domain disputes with some nearby property owners in the Elyria Swansea neighborhood as it seeks to add 110 acres to the complex. The added acreage will create an eventual 250-acre campus.
Denver has committed nearly $669 million to the National Western redevelopment, with most of the funding from extensions of hotel and car rental taxes that voters approved in November 2015. The tourism taxes will pay for $476 million in bonds for the project. Another $121.5 million comes from the state through the Regional Tourism Act, while Colorado State University will pay $16.2 million toward an equine sports medicine facility. The Western Stock Show Association has promised to raise $50 million.
The I-70 overpass park is modeled on dozens of similar spaces around the nation, including Klyde Warren Park in Dallas and a series of parks built over SR530 outside of Seattle, Wash.
The concept of building a park over I-70 was originally presented to the public in 2012-2013 along with the introduction of the lowered highway alternative. Over the last several years, CDOT has been working with local residents, the City and County of Denver, and Denver Public Schools on a public process to design the public space on the park.
Advocates of the park envision an area for sports games, outdoor movies, concerts and farmers markets. About 150 trees will be planted in addition to open lawns, play areas and a splash park. One part of the park will be a shared-use area with Swansea Elementary School but open to community use during all non-school hours and days.
HPTE is a division of CDOT that uses P3s, Express Lanes, and other non-traditional methods to finance and improve the state’s transportation infrastructure.
Spector oversaw completion of the US 36 Express Lanes project between Denver and Boulder. HPTE has evolved from a start-up P3 delivery organization to an established business designed to serve as a model for other agencies.
On June 14, HPTE and CDOT closed on $161.7 million of revenue bonds for the expansion Colorado 470, south of Denver and part of a beltway around the metro area. The bonds were the first ever issued directly by HPTE.
The week before that, HPTE closed on a $106.9 million federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan supporting the project. The bonds and the federal loan provides more than two-thirds of the funding needed for the project.