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Contractor will be fined for allowing lowered part of I-70 to flood

The fines have not been determined but will be taken out of Kiewit's $26 million "substantial completion" payment.

DENVER — You know what sometimes gets flushed down the drain faster than water?


Kiewit, the contractor responsible for the new lowered portion of Interstate 70 in Denver, will be fined for allowing it to flood earlier this month when storm pumps failed to turn on.

Internal emails from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) show the state's transportation agency plans to enforce fines for three issues related to the Aug. 7 flooding.

  • "[Kiewit] did not clear the road of standing water in time."
  • "[Kiewit] did not have the pumps fully functional as required."
  • "[Kiewit] did not have the command system fully function as required."

The fines have not been determined but will be taken out of Kiewit's $26 million "substantial completion" payment.

Kiewit receives milestone payments as different parts of the I-70 project get completed.

To date, Kiewit has earned $275 million in milestone payments (through Milestone 5A in this table).


According to a CDOT spokeswoman, the fines for the flooding are likely only in the tens of thousands.

An email from Kiewit explained that there is more to investigate than just the storm pumps.

"It is our current belief that the pumps were not running during the rain event. We currently do not know if they were not running at all or if something caused them to stop," a Kiewit construction manager wrote in one of the emails to CDOT.

RELATED: I-70 flooding: The Central 70 drainage system needs functioning pump to work

That email also included "other factors to investigate" including:

  • "what alarms were received and what actions were taken and were they in accordance with our protocols."
  • "the surface water in our construction area that we believe cascaded over the barrier between 46th S and mainline contributing to flooding on mainline."
  • "the severity of the weather event to see if there is anything to glean from the weather condition."

The rain on Aug. 7 was near 2 inches in a half hour, which is equivalent to a 100-year rain event. The lower portion of I-70 is supposed to be able to handle a 100-year rain event when construction is complete.

An initial email to CDOT from Kiewit's executive vice president called the flooding a "bad incident." 

He wrote, "We are embarrassed by this event especially in the light of the many current successes."

The emails also revealed another safety feature built with the covered portion of I-70. Drivers can already see the jet fans that are attached to the ceiling of the covered portion. Those activate to clear exhaust and turn on if there were smoke from a fire. There is also a public-address system that was used, according to one email from someone monitoring at the CDOT traffic operations center.

"We have numerous pedestrians walking inside the tunnel because of traffic at a complete stop because of flooding on both EB and WB outside of the tunnel. We have got on the PA and told everyone to please remain in their vehicles," the email said.

RELATED: 29 people rescued as heavy rain causes street flooding in Denver

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