Rio Blanco Bridge project back on track


The Rio Blanco Bridge replacement project looks to be back on track pending Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) approval, though it is unclear when the construction work will take place.

The Rio Blanco Bridge is located on County Road 337A, approximately 8.4 miles southeast of Pagosa Springs and 200 feet southwest of U.S. 84.

According to Public Works Director Ken Feyen, the bridge is currently rated in the 20s on a sufficiency scale of zero to 100, with zero being the worst and 100 being the best. Because the bridge’s rating is below 50, the county qualified for federal funding to replace it.

That federal funding is being administered by CDOT.

Because of the bridge’s failing structure, the load limit has been reduced, which Feyen has previously noted has a large potential affect due to the presence of an RV park on the other side of the bridge, with the bridge no longer rated to accommodate a large fire truck.

With that federal funding promised to help reconstruct the bridge, the Archuleta County voted in early August to award a contract to Skanska USA Civil West Rocky Mountain Division on the condition that a request to waive a requirement dealing with disadvantaged businesses be approved by CDOT.

However, on Aug. 29, word was received that CDOT denied that waiver request.

So, after an appeal to CDOT to reconsider and revise its requirement, the requirement was reduced and Archuleta County rebid the project.

Then, on Monday, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners voted to award the contract to the low bidder on the project — contingent upon CDOT approval.

In rebidding the project, two bids were received. The low bidder this round was Crossfire, LLC at $835,201.80, compared to Skanska’s bid of $1,027,518.

Skanska was the sole bidder on the project previously.

Because the county must now wait on the approval of CDOT (the primary funding entity), there is currently no timeline for construction on the project, Feyen said.

The requirement

More specifically, the requirement that snagged the first round of bids on the project was the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) number assigned to the bridge by CDOT — a goal set to ensure disadvantaged businesses in the state can compete for jobs. Feyen said CDOT stated that Skanska did not make a “good enough faith effort” in contacting DBEs to meet the subcontracting goal set for the project.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) website, “Each DOT-assisted State and local transportation agency is required to establish annual DBE goals, and review the scopes of anticipated large prime contracts throughout the year and establish contract-specific DBE subcontracting goals.”

The DOT website further states what a DBE is: “To be certified as a DBE, a firm must be a small business owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Certifiers make the determinations based upon on-site visits, personal interviews, reviews of licenses, stock ownership, equipment, bonding capacity, work completed, resume of principal owners and financial capacity.”

There are no DBEs in Archuleta County, Feyen explained in August, and very few in the region.

As Feyen explained, the DBE number for the Rio Blanco Bridge project was figured based on the number of DBEs that stated at the beginning of the year that they would potentially be interested in the contract — though that interest in no way obligated any DBE to bid for the project, making the final figure somewhat “arbitrary.”

That original DBE figure was 8 percent — a number that Feyen and the county appeals several times due to the lack of DBEs in the area.

As a result of the previous failed bid and the appeals, as well as information from previous bridge projects showing a lack of contractor interest, CDOT agreed to review the number and revised it to 2 percent for the rebidding process, Feyen explained in an email to SUN staff Wednesday.

Crossfire’s bid included 3.8 percent DBE participation, Feyen wrote.

The total project cost, including engineering, is about $1.2 million, Feyen said in August.