Xcel: We’ll meet November deadline
EAGLE COUNTY – Pray for a mild October.If weather and the ground under U.S. Highway 6 cooperate, Xcel Energy may have its natural gas line replacement project done by early November, as planned. But the project hasn’t exactly had a smooth go.The weather in May wasn’t great, which slowed the pace of the work. Replacing line in the Dowd Junction area took longer than expected, due mostly to shifting soil. Crews have encountered shifting soil elsewhere, especially in Eagle-Vail, prompting a decision in August to spend a lot of money to stop digging trenches and start horizontal drilling. Recently, a giant boulder was discovered in the west part of Avon. The highway is closed completely in that spot while the boulder is blasted down to size. One of the drilling rigs broke down recently, which further delayed work. But company spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo said the project, at least this week, is on track.The highway is set to open in Avon this week, and pilot bores have been drilled in Eagle-Vail, which means the main bores are ready to go. Crews are getting ready to repave the westbound lane of the highway in other areas.Greg Osteen will be happy when the highway between Avon and Edwards does re-open. Osteen runs Vail Valley Cares, the local charity that runs the Thrifty Shoppe locations in Edwards and Eagle. He’s noticed that it’s been a lot easier to make a left turn out of the shop in the last few weeks, but that convenience has come at a cost.”We’ve had very little drive-by traffic,” Osteen said. “… This has hit us.”In Avon, Fly Fishing Outfitters owner John Packer said his shop has taken a double hit this summer. Early on, construction to the west cost him customers from Arrowhead and Cordillera. Now, the highway closure east of his store has cost customers from that direction. While people don’t have to come to the shop for guided trips, Packer said his retail business – a third or more of his total revenue – has taken a substantial hit. Packer was glad to hear the highway in Avon could reopen in a matter of days, but said he feels badly for other businesses that took a bigger hit.While the project seems to be on track for now, Aguayo said getting the work done will depend in large part on the weather.”We’re all hoping for a warm October,” she said.Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.