Friday, October 21, 2011

With new road comes a sticky mess

Commuters on Highway 75 splashed with tar-like substance


For the Express

During the ongoing state Highway 75 resurfacing project, commuters throughout the Wood River Valley have had to contend with delays, rough roads and, for some, hard-to-remove tar that only comes off at the owners' expense. The trouble, according to one resident, stems from a decision by Knife River Corp., the contractor, to spread asphalt during rainstorms in the week of October 3-6.

"I have two cars splashed heavily with the emulsion mix," said Kim Berg of Hailey.

He said both his Nissan Muranos have the tar on the rear doors and windows.

Berg said he has experience building roads as a general contractor in the Seattle area.

"The contractor shouldn't have been laying this stuff down in those wet conditions," he said.

The asphalt is oily, Berg explained, and is absorbed by the underlayer in dry conditions but when wet it mixes with water, doesn't absorb and splashes.

Berg expressed disappointment with the supervision by the Idaho Transportation Department.

"They never should have allowed this to happen," he said.

Knife River didn't respond to a phone call by press deadline Thursday. Nathan Jerke, ITD public information specialist, said the project engineer wasn't available to address these paving issues at press time but would do so at a later date.

Jesus Ortiz, a detailer at Sun Valley Car Wash in Ketchum, said the business has cleaned a few vehicles.

"This one had some tar on it," he said, pointing to a late-model Chevy Suburban in the bay. "A lot of people come in asking about it but not many make appointments."

Hailey resident Molly Page of Hailey said her minivan has tar all over it. She said Sun Valley Auto Club gave her a $150 estimate to remove it. She said she contacted the ITD to file a complaint against Knife River, but "the instructions are confusing."

According to the letter sent to Page by the ITD, Knife River has agreed to indemnify the state for all claims arising from the project. It advises Page to contact Knife River's Boise office, and states that the firm's coverage is with Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. Should Knife River not respond, the letter states, the claimant should notify the Idaho State Department of Insurance.

For those who believe they have a claim against the state, the paperwork goes through the Secretary of State's Office.

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