It probably surprised no one in the summer of 2017 when the Colorado Department of Transportation announced it had selected Kiewit Meridiam Partners for the massive reconstruction of I-70 in Denver.
The company, noted then-CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt, had “demonstrated that they can meet this challenge while minimizing impacts to those who travel, work, and live along I-70.”
“The ability to address the needs and concerns of the communities most impacted by the upcoming construction also played a key role in the selection,” Bhatt continued, additionally noting that Kiewit Meridiam had committed to reducing by at least one season the work schedule for the project.
The I-70 project is set to see the reconstruction of a 10-mile stretch of highway between Brighton Boulevard and Chambers Road, a stretch that carries around 200,000 vehicles daily. The project will also include the addition of a new express lane going in each direction.
If that’s not enough, Kiewit Meridiam is additionally tasked with removing a viaduct built in 1964, lowering the interstate between Brighton and Colorado Boulevards, and, uniquely, creating a park that will measure some 4 acres inside the portion of the lowered interstate.
In making the big I-70 announcement, CDOT officials made a point of chronicling Kiewit’s record of achievement in the state, a record that can be traced to the almost frenetic construction of Fort Carson, some 8 miles north of Colorado Springs, during the early months of World War II.
That project saw barracks and officer’s quarters gong up on a quickened pace unimaginable today, with the construction of a new structure “every 20 minutes until 2,500 were up,” noted writer Robert Hoig in 1962.
Kiewit, founded in Omaha in 1884, has now had a presence in Colorado for more than seven decades. And that presence, says spokesman Tom Janssen, “has allowed us to build a strong relationship and employee base in a variety of markets.”
“Though our general policy is to ‘go where the work is,’” continues Janssen, “our experience with a variety of projects in Colorado helps our work in the state be especially successful.”
Focusing on infrastructure building, as well as oil and gas industry construction and public projects, the original Kiewit company did not significantly involve itself in road, highway, and bridge work until the advent of the Interstate Highway System in 1956.
Over time, notes author C. Carl Pegels, “Kiewit built more lane miles of the interstate highway system than any other contractor.”
In his 2011 book Prominent Dutch American Entrepreneurs, Pegels traced the origin of the company founded by brothers Andrew and Peter Kiewit, observing that over time it evolved into “one of the largest infrastructure companies in the United States, and probably also in the world.”
Pegels added that Andrew and Peter Kiewit “would never have expected that their original venture, a building contracting firm, would eventually grow into the Kiewit Corporation of today.”
Among the more prominent projects Kiewit has spearheaded in Colorado is the eastbound lane of the twin-bore Eisenhower Tunnel through the Colorado Rockies, the Interstate Highway System’s longest mountain tunnel; the redevelopment of the Denver Union Station; and the I-25 Transportation Expansion Project.
Otherwise known as T-Rex, that $1.6 billion expansion project widened interstate routes in metro Denver by as much as seven lanes in each direction, and added 19 miles of light rail track.
T-Rex is thought to be one of the most successful upgrades projects in U.S. transportation history, and was completed well under budget and ahead of schedule in 2006.
A portion of that project, the new I-225 interchange, was lauded by Rocky Mountain News reporter Kevin Flynn, who is now a member of the Denver City Council, writing that driving though it had become “a breeze, untangled of the dangerous merges thanks to a flyover, a ‘braided’ ramp, and a tunnel that moves traffic conflicts and keeps merging to a minimum.”
Kiewit’s continued and future working investment in Colorado, says Janssen, is to some degree predicated on the state’s approach to seeing things through to completion.
“Colorado leadership has a long and somewhat unique history of setting priorities, working to get broad concurrence, and then executing on the vision,” says Janssen, adding that Kiewitt remains particularly attracted to a state that has a reputation for “just getting things done.”
By Garry Boulard
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