Friday, October 22, 2004

Highway 75 traffic woes won?t end soon

Delayed resurfacing project likely to continue into November

Express Staff Writer

Road construction crews on Thursday morning assessed conditions on Highway 75 in the middle Wood River Valley. Work to resurface large sections of the highway between Hailey and Ketchum has been delayed this week by wet weather. Photo by David N. Seelig

It might be weeks before commuters between Hailey and Ketchum find relief from construction-related traffic delays.

An Idaho Transportation Department official assisting in oversight of an ongoing project to resurface most of the 11-mile stretch of state Highway 75 between the two cites said Wednesday that poor weather this week has jeopardized a late-October goal for finishing the work.

Tom Logan, ITD project inspector, said the project contractor, Jerome-based Idaho Sand & Gravel, might now be forced to work on the project into November, particularly if wet weather persists.

?What we need is good weather and sunny days,? Logan said. ?When we have a wet surface, we cannot pave.?

He added: ?With the hold up of the weather, it?s hard to tell at this point when it will be done.?

Under ITD supervision, Idaho Sand & Gravel approximately three weeks ago initiated the project to resurface several long sections of Highway 75 between the southern edge of Ketchum and the northern edge of Hailey.

Sections of the highway that have been resurfaced in recent years?including a stretch that runs from Ohio Gulch Road north just beyond East Fork Road?will not be included in the project.

The process of using a giant rotomill machine to remove the top three inches of road surface from targeted areas and replacing it with new asphalt has caused lengthy delays for motorists, particularly during peak commuter hours. Many commuters have reported that the approximately 12-mile trip between Hailey and Ketchum has at times taken more than an hour.

Logan said rain and snow in the Wood River Valley this week significantly hindered the resurfacing work. New asphalt cannot be installed when water is present because moisture can be trapped under the new surface and compromise its strength.

?Once we get beyond this week of poor weather we plan on continuing to get these sections paved,? Logan said.

Logan noted that ITD sought to keep traffic congestion to a minimum by resurfacing the section of highway immediately south of Ketchum in the first phase of work. Typically, delays at the entrance to Ketchum prompt highway congestion at points south.

Logan said road crews are doing much of the work at night but noted that daytime commuters should still ?expect some delays on days that we?re paving.?

During the day, he said, ITD will continue to keep open at least one travel lane in each direction.

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