Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Highway work to halt for the holidays

Equipment problems lead to delays in completion of project

Express Staff Writer

Resurfacing of state Highway 75 south of Bellevue will be suspended Saturday through Tuesday for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. At other times, motorists are experiencing 10- to 30-minute delays. Photo by David N. Seelig

Motorists traveling south of Bellevue can breath a sigh of relief for a few days, as construction on state Highway 75 will be suspended for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Nathan Jerke said Tuesday that the work stoppage is required by the contract with Knife River, the Boise company hired for the project. Jerke said the work suspension will run from Saturday, July 2, through Tuesday, July 5, but does not include Friday, July 1.

Jerke said Knife River might decide to voluntarily stop work on Friday, but is not required by contract to do so.

"It kind of depends on where they are in the construction process, whether they can take the time off," Jerke said. "It's a tough spot with the contractor. Because of the breakdowns they've had, they've fallen a little behind the schedule."

The project involves resurfacing a 5.5-mile stretch of Highway 75 immediately south of Bellevue. Since starting work earlier this month, Knife River has been working around the clock, seven days a week. The company is required by contract to keep two lanes of traffic moving from Mondays through Fridays during peak commuter hours, from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

At other times, pilot cars are being used to guide traffic through the construction zone. Jerke said delays from 10 minutes to 30 minutes are typically being encountered by motorists.

"Obviously, that's not ideal," Jerke said. "But with all those cars that go through there, it sometimes takes time to clear it out without backing it up too far in the other direction."

Originally, ITD expected the project to be completed in June, but Jerke said computer problems at Knife River's portable asphalt hot plant have caused delays. He said ITD now projects completion of resurfacing sometime between July 10-15. Road striping and other odds and ends will continue through July.

Knife River is also the contractor for two other Highway 75 projects in Blaine County. ITD has awarded a $5 million contract to the company to resurface a 10-mile stretch of highway between Hailey and Ketchum. That work is planned to begin in mid-August and extend through September.

Knife River also has the contract to resurface a 30-mile stretch of Highway 75 north of Ketchum between Galena Summit and Stanley. Jerke said the company is now crushing gravel and doing preliminary work in the area but that actual road construction won't start until after resurfacing is finished south of Bellevue.

Terry Smith:

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