Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Highway construction resumes in the valley

Contractor falls short on completing project up north


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Knife River Corp. has hauled its paving equipment from the Sawtooth Valley back to the Wood River Valley to resume resurfacing a 10-mile stretch of state Highway 75 between Hailey and Ketchum.

The Boise company on Tuesday began installing an asphalt test strip on the southbound lane of the highway north of McKercher Boulevard in Hailey. Today and Thursday, according to the Idaho Transportation Department, Knife River will resume putting a new surface on the 3.25-mile stretch of highway between Timber Way north of East Fork Road and the bridge over the Big Wood River south of Elkhorn Road.

Regardless of the effort, ITD has already announced that the project will not be finished this year.

Likewise, Knife River was not able to complete work on a 28-mile stretch of Highway 75 between Frenchman Creek and Stanley. ITD announced Monday that the company has finished putting a new surface on the highway, but that a chip-seal coat to finish off the work will not be done until next year.

Both projects were supposed to be completed in 2011. Knife River did score one out of three by finishing a 5.5-mile stretch of Highway 75 south of Bellevue.

"The projects did not go off the way we anticipated," ITD spokesman Nathan Jerke said Tuesday. "I don't know if there will be any penalties to the contractor. That's something that will be negotiated at a later date.

"Everything was supposed to be completely finished this year. But one project set them back on the others—it's a snowball effect."

Knife River was contracted by ITD at $2 million for repaving south of Bellevue, at $4.26 million for the Frenchman Creek-to-Stanley work and at $5.4 million for the Hailey-to-Ketchum project.

The delays started in June when a faulty portable asphalt batch plant set Knife River more than a month behind schedule on the work south of Bellevue.

Jerke said Knife River will likely be allowed to finish the Frenchman Creek-to-Stanley work next summer, along with what doesn't get done on the Hailey-to-Ketchum project.

ITD conceded earlier this month that a micro-seal for most of the Hailey-to-Ketchum project will have to wait until 2012. How much Knife River gets done this year remains in question, with a chief variable being the weather.

Jerke said ITD expects that Knife River will finish putting both a new surface and micro-seal on the 3.25-mile portion of the highway from Timber Way to the Big Wood River bridge. The remaining 6.75 miles will be harder because a portion of the existing road surface must be milled away before a new surface is added. If ITD is satisfied with the asphalt test strip north of McKercher Boulevard, the milling and resurfacing operating could start as early as Monday, Sept. 19.

"We anticipate that the temperatures will stay warm enough for the next two or three weeks that they should be able to get the overlay done," Jerke said.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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