Friday, April 8, 2011

Highway repairs on track for summer

Transportation Committee anxious to ‘git ’er done’

Express Staff Writer

This pothole, lower right, and many more like it on state Highway 75 between Ketchum and Hailey are expected to be gone by the end of summer. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Idaho Transportation Department's tentative schedule to resurface the crumbling highway between Ketchum and Hailey doesn't exactly meet an earlier request from local officials, but the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee OK'd the plan anyway at its meeting Thursday.

"Git 'er done," said committee member Nils Ribi, a Sun Valley city councilman.

ITD plans to begin repairs as early as late July on the 10-mile stretch of state Highway 75. The Transportation Committee earlier requested that resurfacing not start until after Labor Day weekend in September, but conceded during a meeting Thursday that a later start date would likely push completion of repairs into summer 2012.

"I think what I'm hearing from my constituents is they want to see this done and not put off for another year," Ribi said.

"I think we want to get it done as quickly as possible," said committee member Jason Miller, executive director of Mountain Rides Transportation Authority.

"Obviously, we'd like to get it done before school starts, but two weeks into September, we can live with that," said committee member Rex Squires, transportation director for the Blaine County School District.

The stretch of highway was given a new surface in 2006 but it hasn't held up as long as ITD had planned. Instead, the road surface has been steadily deteriorating this winter and spring and the department has determined that it needs to be repaired before construction on a highway expansion project starts in 2013.

ITD Project Development Engineer Walter Burnside reported at Thursday's meeting that a contract is expected to be awarded in July and construction may start later that month. He said the contract calls for 41 working days to complete the project and that restrictions will be put in place to prohibit construction or avoid traffic delays during peak traffic times.

"Three-day weekends will be restricted in the contract," Burnside said. "It won't allow the contractor to be out on the roads on those weekends."

Burnside said the contract will also provide that two-way traffic be maintained on weekends and from 6:30-9 a.m. on workdays.

"We want people to get to work on time," he said.

Several detours will route traffic away from the highway at times during construction in the areas of Serenade Lane in south Ketchum, Broadway Run south of St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and Buttercup Road north of Hailey.

Burnside said ITD intends that the project be completed this year, but if cold weather sets in, completion may have to be delayed until 2012. He said a minimum temperature of 70 degrees is needed so the asphalt can properly set.

In the meantime, Burnside said ITD crews will continue to try to keep the potholes filled.

"You are all aware of the maintenance issues that are occurring," he said. "The highway crews are out there at night trying to fix that."

Other Highway 75 construction projects are planned this summer for south of Bellevue, in Hailey at Fox Acres Drive and near Stanley.

"The good news is there's a lot of work coming to the valley and Blaine County," Burnside said. "We're listening to you and we're spending money. The bad news is it's going to cause traffic disruption for awhile.

"It's just a little bit painful and then it goes away, and hopefully it won't come back for a while."

Terry Smith:

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