A few days ago, this notice was sent out to residents of Denver City Council’s District 10, with changes and “improvements” in the rules for work on construction projects. The new Executive Director of Public Works, Eulois Cleckley, has reviewed the rules, with an eye toward folding suggestions into this list of measures for the near future.
For many areas of Denver, navigating around neighborhoods with a lot of new construction or restoration has become a minefield: lanes closures to accommodate heavy equipment, workers parking in spaces normally for residents or visitors, and oddball work hours. For several months, driving south on Grant Street below East 10th Avenue meant swerving back and forth because the left lane was closed, then the right lane was closed. Fortunately, drivers were tolerant and let drivers in when the land suddenly ended (thank you!).
The photo above is of a construction site at East 3rd Avenue and Logan Street – just south of Speer Boulevard. One lane of Logan is closed now; the hole is big, two cranes (one a tower crane) are on site, and there are lots of barriers to try to safeguard drivers and pedestrians now that a lane has been closed. (The project is 355 Logan, a multi-family building. It looks like it is really getting going.)
I understand how difficult it is for contractors to work on tight sites in a busy city, especially with parking near a construction site. But, whoa, for a while Cherry Creek North was like a bumper car derby while penning in neighbors.
Anyway, new rules…
Construction Project Improvements
Our economy is booming, and the new construction to bring additional housing, office space, and retail businesses is clearly evident in this boom. However, the negative impacts of these projects have become serious issues that City Council and Denver Public Works Department are now addressing to minimize undesirable effects on residents, retailers, workers, shoppers, and tourists.
Over the past two months Eulois Cleckley, the new Executive Director of Denver Public Works, and his staff have been reviewing citywide improvement recommendations that I and many neighborhood/business leaders have proposed. On October 8, Public Works described the following improvements to help mitigate specific issues and implement the recommendations of City Council members and community leaders either now or in January 2019.
- Parking Management and Enforcement – License plate readers have now been added for greater enforcement efficiency in identifying parking violations. To address the high percentage of Enforcement staff vacancies, pay levels have been recently increased, and non-benefited positions will be upgraded to include benefits in January.
- Construction Worker Parking Plans – Effective January 2019, all new proposed construction projects will have to provide defined parking plans for all construction workers before a building right-of-way usage permit will be granted. Incentives will also be considered to increase compliance by contractors and workers.
- Pedestrian Sidewalk Canopies – The present regulations on sidewalk canopies for pedestrian safety have not been implemented and enforced. The regulations will be enhanced and enforced, beginning in January.
- Construction Communications – Public Works has not held construction communication meetings to make the public aware of upcoming activities that may affect neighborhoods and businesses. Routine monthly construction progress review meetings will be held and chaired by Public Works to ensure attendance and participation by all contractors to improve communication. Construction plans, such as street closures and canopies, that may disrupt retail business and neighborhood traffic flow and affect pedestrian safety will be regular issues for discussion. The first meeting will be held in October.
- Traffic Management Plans for Street and Sidewalk Closures – The present policies and procedures on street and sidewalk closures have not been effective in preventing excessive closures. The policies will be evaluated as to (a) the length of time a closure is allowed; (b) the dimensions of closures that increase the construction site; and (c) the effects on pedestrian and traffic flow. An evaluation will occur in October with implementation in January.
- Intersection and Alley Parking Signage – Cars and trucks parked too close to alley and intersection entrances do not provide sufficient visibility for safe car exits. Residents can now request an evaluation of the need for intersection and alley signage to provide greater visibility of and for street traffic approaching an exit or intersection. The present regulations are for 5 feet of clearance from an alley entrance and 20 feet from an intersection. Residents should contact 311 to request additional signage and report infractions.
- Damage to Infrastructure and Streetscape – Each current construction project must post a construction bond to repair damaged adjacent infrastructure and streetscape. Since damage repair using these bond funds has not been enforced, taxpayer funds in the City budget have had to be used for repairs. Greater regulations will be developed to address existing conditions prior to construction, bond amount determinations, the evaluation of post construction damage, and the use of bond funds and not taxpayer funds for repairs. These regulations will now be implemented with all existing and future construction projects.
- Construction Signage in Right of Way – Street and sidewalk closure and other types of construction signs have not been promptly removed when no longer needed for a construction project. Some signs have remained for days and weeks. Public Works will now be responsible for notifying sign companies to remove this unneeded signage. Residents should contact 311 for signage removal at a specific address.
Neighborhoods and businesses are appreciative of these improvements made by Denver Public Works, but a few issues will need to be addressed in the near future.
- Construction Hours – The present City construction hours are 7 AM to 9 PM on weekdays and 8 AM to 5 PM on weekends. Many construction projects have ignored these hours, especially in early starting hours and on weekends. Weekday hour changes and greater enforcement are being recommended to minimize noise and disruption.
- Inconvenience Fees – Many cities have instituted inconvenience fees on projects that have extended street and sidewalk closures beyond allowed closure time periods. These fees have successfully encouraged greater compliance by contractors, and street and sidewalk closure extensions have been minimized due to these fees.
- Parking District – Many cities have also decentralized their parking enforcement responsibilities to organized business organizations. Parking and traffic management has proven to be more effective with greater local control. A consultant study on the requirements to form a parking district is being considered.
The assistance and leadership of the Public Works Department and all neighborhood and business leaders is greatly appreciated. These implemented improvements should make the management of construction less intrusive to neighborhood quality of life and to customers for our busi