Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Knife River is back on the job

Equipment malfunction causes delay in highway work

Express Staff Writer

Knife River Corp. was back at work Monday resurfacing state Highway 75. A crew is shown here laying asphalt near St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center. Photo by Willy Cook

After losing three warm September days because of another equipment malfunction, Knife River Corp. has resumed repaving the 10-mile stretch of state Highway 75 between Hailey and Ketchum.

"They had mechanical issues at the hot plant again, and that's what delayed them again," Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Nathan Jerke said Monday. "They had to order a part from back east and that took a while to come in."

Problems with the company's portable asphalt batch plants have been blamed for delays in Knife River's performance on three highway paving projects this summer in Blaine County. ITD has already conceded that Knife River will not be able to put a micro-seal on most of the 10-mile stretch of highway between Hailey and Ketchum this year as was originally planned. The micro-seal fills cracks, thereby reducing water penetration into the asphalt.

"It is a little smoother surface without the seal coat, but it's not going to be significantly slicker [this winter] without it," Jerke said. "Winter is winter, and it all depends on how you take care of the snow and ice."

Knife River resumed repaving on Friday, three days later than originally planned. ITD announced Tuesday that an asphalt test strip laid that day north of Ohio Gulch Road has passed muster and that the company can now start repaving in earnest.

Road work, including milling and paving, was scheduled to start Tuesday on the highway north of McKercher Boulevard in Hailey and in the Ohio Gulch Road area. ITD announced that over the next few weeks, weather permitting, that work will resume and traffic will be diverted at times onto Buttercup Road.

Farther north, Knife River on Monday completed laying a new surface on the 3.25-mile section of highway between Timber Way north of East Fork Road and the bridge over the Big Wood River south of Elkhorn Road. ITD announced that a micro-seal on that portion of the highway "is expected to be completed on Thursday or Friday."

Terry Smith:

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