Friday, April 11, 2014

Highway work to last all summer

Construction start date still not determined

Express Staff Writer

Flaggers and construction equipment will be common sights throughout the summer on a 3.75-mile section of state Highway 75 south of Ketchum. Photo by Roland Lane

     Construction on a 3.75-mile stretch of state Highway 75 south of Ketchum, a project that was started almost a year ago, is expected to last throughout this summer and possibly into the fall, according to projections from the Idaho Transportation Department.

     “At this point, we anticipate that it will carry on through at least August,” ITD District 4 spokesman Nathan Jerke said Wednesday. “They do have enough working days left on their contract to carry them through the summer. A lot of it depends on how the work goes. They’ve still got more than half the roadway to construct.”

     Jerke was referring to Idaho Sand & Gravel Co., the Jerome firm ITD contracted at $9.4 million to do the work.

     The project involves expanding the section of highway into four lanes from Timber Way just north of East Fork Road to the bridge over the Big Wood River near St. Luke’s Wood River hospital. The new roadway will also have intermittent center turn lanes and deceleration lanes at major intersections.

     When the project was started last year, ITD was optimistic that the work would be completed in 2013, but allowed even then that the work might need to be carried into this year. As delays were encountered, due to weather and equipment, ITD finally conceded in August that the project would not be finished that year. Construction was finally halted after wintry weather settled into the Wood River Valley last November.

     While much of the southbound roadway was completed in 2013, the northbound lanes are unbuilt, as is the entire roadway from Hospital Drive north to the Big Wood River bridge.

     Nonetheless, Jerke said the entire project is more than half finished. Most of the utility relocation work is done. Also completed are a noise wall at Drashner Trailer Park and a retaining wall at a rock outcrop near Owl Rock Road. Furthermore, buildings previously in the new roadway right-of-way have been demolished and cleanup of contaminated areas is finished.


Construction start date

     Jerke noted that how soon the project is finished is partly dependent upon how soon work starts. As of now, a construction start date has not been announced.

     ITD Project Development Engineer Walter Burnside said last week that work might start as early as April 15, but Jerke said Wednesday that Burnside’s projection was likely overly optimistic.

     “The odds of starting next week are pretty slim,” Jerke said. “We haven’t heard from them (the contractor) yet and they have to give us a week’s notice so we can get our forces marshaled and running.

     “It’s just a moisture issue up there right now,” Jerke said. “The contractor is needing to wait for the ground to dry out.

     “If the weather stays the way it is, if it stays warm and dry, we could be up there in two weeks, maybe after Easter. Probably the first of May is a good target, as well.”

     Regarding another construction issue, Jerke said ITD has decided to change the configuration of the roadside ditches that were built along the southbound lanes to retain storm water runoff as required by law. There have been complaints from the public and local officials that the ditches, about 6 feet deep in some areas, are too steep and deep and could present a dangerous situation to a vehicle that runs off the road.

     “Devin (Rigby) did make a decision a few weeks ago to lessen the slope,” Jerke said. “Basically, we’re going to reduce the depth of the roadside retention ponds.”

     Rigby is the ITD District 4 engineer, a position equivalent to district supervisor.

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