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Who's in charge of inspecting US 36?

The Colorado Dept. of Transportation has an agreement with a private company, Plenary Roads Denver, to manage U.S. 36. But Plenary isn't the road's inspector.

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — The group that manages the U.S. 36 corridor pays inspectors to monitor the roadway. That group also pays the state a fee that gets spent keeping an eye on their inspectors.

U.S. 36 is managed by a private company, Plenary Roads Denver, through a 50-year agreement with Colorado's High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE), an arm of the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Plenary hired Ferrovial Services for the maintenance and operation of U.S. 36. Plenary also pays HPTE an annual amount that started at $375,000 in 2014, which HPTE then spends on an inspector that inspects the work being done by Ferrovial.

'Ferrovial drives the corridor daily, multiple times. "We hired a consultant, they drive it random times, two-to-three times a week, to inspect Ferrovial," said HPTE director Nick Farber.

Farber was officially named HPTE's new director at the monthly board meeting on Wednesday morning. His first official action was giving the board an update on the U.S. 36 situation.

“I went out there on Sunday afternoon and I toured it myself. It was amazing to watch, you could actually hear the wall popping as they were separating the bridge from the abutment," Farber told the board. “You’re standing there next to the wall and as it’s popping, you’re thinking where am I going to go if this wall decides to collapse at this very moment.”

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At the board meeting, Farber did not have new information about the cause of the deterioration of the bridge or who was to blame or who would be responsible for paying.

“We have an independent engineer out there. They were out there yesterday inspecting the wall, taking samples," said Farber. “HPTE is going to lead the forensic engineering and financial ramifications of what went on, to do an investigation of why it had happened and come to a conclusion, hopefully, in the near future. The most important part is that it is going to be independent, by someone who has no connection to the project, at the time."

As part of the agreement with Plenary, the U.S. 36 corridor gets inspected daily. Some tasks are done daily, like maintenance patrols and litter removal. Others are weekly, like pavement observations, graffiti removal and light repair. Some work is done bi-monthly or monthly, like lane marker repair, drainage cleaning and sign maintenance.

“The concession agreement and our relationship with Plenary, I think it worked. It’s working," said Farber. “They discovered the crack in the roadway, they notified HPTE and HPTE, in conjunction with CDOT, took the appropriate action.”

In an email, a spokesman for Plenary Roads Denver provided a fact sheet that appears to distance the company from any financial responsibility.

"This agreement calls for routine maintenance such as minor repairs, and snow and ice removal. Reconstruction or major repairs are not part of this agreement in the general-purpose lanes," said Plenary spokesman Gil Rudawsky.

Farber did not have a time-frame for the independent investigation.

"It's going to take as long as it takes. I don't know how long it's going to take, but I want to make sure that it's thorough," said Farber. "I don't know if I want it sped up, I want to make sure that it's done correctly. I think if you do something as quickly as possible, you're apt to have not a good result."

Farber is taking over for former HPTE Director David Spector, who resigned in March to take a job at a private consulting firm. CDOT executive director Shoshana Lew also took over at the start of the year, when she was appointed by Gov. Jared Polis (D).

"Between the bomb cyclones and the rock and all that stuff, now this, it's been quite a year for Shoshana (Lew) and quite a start for me, as well," said Farber.


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