Friday, September 2, 2011

H-75 work won’t be finished this year

ITD concedes delay on Hailey-to-Ketchum resurfacing project

Express Staff Writer

Though work has already started on repairing a crumbling highway between Hailey and Ketchum, the Idaho Transportation Department conceded Thursday that the project won't be finished this year.

"They'll go as long as they can until they run out of temperature," ITD District Engineer Devin Rigby said Thursday at a meeting of the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee. "Once they start they'll be going two shifts a day."

The first phase of work on the 10-mile stretch of state Highway 75 is the easy part. It simply involves putting a new 1-inch layer of paving over the existing road surface on a 3.25-mile stretch of highway between Timber Way north of East Fork Road and bridge across the Big Wood River south of Elkhorn Road.

ITD expects that a "micro-seal" layer to protect the road surface will be installed before cold weather sets in. The work on that portion of the highway is just a Band-Aid anyway, since it will be ripped out in 2013 for a highway widening project.

The harder part of the resurfacing project is the remaining 6.75 miles of roadway to the south, most of which will be milled out and a new road bed and surface put in its place. Rigby told the committee that the work is now expected to begin Sept. 18 and will last into October, if weather permits.

Rigby said ITD remains hopeful that the new roadbed will be in place this fall, but announced that installing a micro-seal won't be done until next year.

The Hailey-to-Ketchum resurfacing project is one of three major state Highway 75 resurfacing jobs that have been underway this summer. All three were contracted to Knife River Corp. of Boise, which is running at least a month behind a schedule earlier planned by ITD.

Delays were first encountered in June, when a faulty asphalt batch plant caused a one-month delay on resurfacing a 5.5-mile stretch of highway south of Bellevue.

That led to a delay in Knife River's getting started on a 28-mile stretch of highway resurfacing north of Ketchum between Frenchman Creek and Stanley. ITD originally expected that work to be done by mid-August, which would have allowed Knife River to get an earlier start on the Hailey-to-Ketchum work. Later, ITD projected it would be done by Labor Day weekend. But it's still not finished.

"They've almost got it done, but they didn't quite get it finished," Rigby said. "They'll be working over the weekend and will probably get it done the middle of next week."

ITD originally expected the Hailey-to-Ketchum project to be finished in September. Rigby said how much of the project gets done this year is dependent upon the weather, adding that the temperature needs to be "40 and rising" before asphalt can be laid.

"We could have a snowstorm, though—everybody knows that," he said.

Whatever the schedule, Knife River is precluded by contract from working on the Hailey-to-Ketchum project over the Labor Day weekend.

Once work gets restarted, the company is precluded from working before 9 a.m. Afternoon rush hour traffic won't have it quite as easy.

"The afternoon, that is going to be the challenge," Rigby said. "If we have periods when we've backed up traffic, like during school, we'll put flaggers out."

Terry Smith:

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