CDOT is fining its contractor “tens of thousands” of dollars for that flooding on the new billion-dollar part of I-70

The one place we didn’t need the moisture.

A truck is submerged in a work area next to the new I-70 underpass that flooded during heavy rain. Aug. 7, 2022.

A truck is submerged in a work area next to the new I-70 underpass that flooded during heavy rain. Aug. 7, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Nathaniel Minor, CPR News

Remember that time earlier this month when Denver saw rain of seemingly biblical proportions, for a few minutes anyway, and the fancy new Interstate 70 tunnel filled with water?

Well, the Colorado Department of Transportation sure does, and it’s planning to fine the contractor building the project, Kiewit Meridiam Partners, over the mess that left motorists stranded for more than an hour.

Kiewit Meridiam Partners blamed automatic pumps that turned out not to be so automatic for the flooding, and CDOT believes their failure amounted to a violation of its project agreement with the contractor.

“[The contractor] did not clear the road of standing water in time,” a CDOT staffer wrote in an email that Denverite obtained via an open records request.

“[The contractor] did not have the pumps fully functional as required,” the email continued.

CDOT spokeswoman Stacia Sellers said the department is doing its own fact-finding around the “non-conformance event” and making sure underlying issues have been addressed. That will determine the fine’s amount, she said.

“It’s hard to give an estimate since this process is not complete yet, but at the very least we could be looking at tens of thousands,” she wrote in an email to Denverite.

Other emails show Kiewit and CDOT officials scrambling to get a handle on the situation. One, sent early the morning after from Kiewit executive Scott Cassels to CDOT’s top brass, pledged to investigate the “bad incident.”

“We are embarrassed by this event especially in the light of the many current successes,” he wrote.

A Kiewit spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The $1.2 billion Central 70 highway expansion project has disrupted life in nearby north Denver neighborhoods for years, but construction is now winding down and should be wrapped up by next year.

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