Rampant Construction Has Become a Major Headache

July 25 2014, 1:00 PM

Tax dollars at work.

Generally speaking, the sight of construction cranes, cement trucks, and legions of orange-vested workers is a welcome sign for the economy. If new apartment complexes and office buildings are going up or roads and bridges are being repaired, it's usually evidence that people—or, more accurately, people with money—view the city's future growth with optimism.

But to the rest of us, construction is a nuisance. And lately in Denver, it seems like a permanent one.

For several months now, the intersection of East First Avenue, Josephine Street, and University Boulevard in Cherry Creek has been choked off by a massive project to replace and repair underground sewer lines. The congestion around the juncture has gotten so bad that it's best to avoid the area entirely, regardless of the time of day. The work is necessary as the faulty sewer lines have been known to cause flooding issues. But the way it's being executed—a comprehensive overhaul that has turned the entire area into an endless traffic jam—has developed into more than just an annoyance: This week, the Denver Business Journal reported that several small businesses in Cherry Creek North have recently been forced to close, and they have largely blamed the construction, which has made it difficult for drivers to navigate and find parking in the area, thus severely reducing foot traffic in the usually bustling commercial district.

But it's not just Cherry Creek. Here's a mere sampling of local construction-fueled inconveniences: South Broadway has been bottlenecked by construction for months, and the rehabilitation of the nearby bend of I-25 has so far made traffic way slower than it used to be—with the newly built merge ramp off of Santa Fe Drive looking like it might create more problems than it will solve. And, of course, the U.S. 36 corridor will remain a daily nightmare for suburban commuters into the foreseeable future.

All this congestion might be (a tad) more tolerable if it wasn't so common to drive through these areas during weekday hours and see no one working. I'm no expert on how contractors allot their time—there's little evidence that contractors themselves are clear about how this is supposed to work—but if we could have just the illusion that someone is diligently trying to complete these projects, it might make the aggravation more bearable. We've all seen new buildings pop up in our neighborhoods seemingly overnight, yet when it comes to road construction the pace typically slows to an infuriating crawl.

And now it appears this snailish MO is costing some people their livelihoods. Us Denverites welcome economic growth and future opportunities (and we love driving on smoothly repaved roads). We just wish there would be as much visible effort being expended on these projects as we've exerted struggling our way through and around them.

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.