Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Knife River slightly behind schedule

Highway work to drag into next week

Express Staff Writer

Employees of Valley Slurry Seal Co., subcontracted by Knife River Corp. and headquartered in West Sacramento, Calif., are shown late last week applying a micro-seal to state Highway 75 in the vicinity of Serenade Lane in Ketchum. Valley Slurry Seal Chief Superintendent Jon James said: “The weather is perfect now for the micro surfacing layer we are putting down,” unlike last year when colder temperatures hindered micro-seal application to a new highway surface, Photo by Willy Cook

Knife River Corporation, the North Dakota company contracted by the Idaho Transportation Department to resurface state Highway 75 between Hailey and Ketchum, is a few days behind schedule.

Roadwork, started on July 30 and expected to last two weeks, is now going to stretch into next week, according to ITD. Knife River is applying a micro-seal to about seven miles of highway on a new surface that was put on the highway last year.

"They are actually running a couple of days behind schedule because of problems they've had with equipment," ITD spokesman Nathan Jerke said Tuesday. "It happens with every contract, but there isn't the urgency on every project like there is with this one because we just want to get it done and get them off the highway.

"But, breakdowns are breakdowns," he said.

Knife River completed micro-seal application on Monday to a portion of the highway in Ketchum and south to near St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and then began work on the wider section of highway south of East Fork Road. Jerke said the northbound portion should be finished later today and the southbound portion by Friday. That leaves only the stretch of highway from the Buttercup Road intersection south to Hailey.

That work could start as early as Friday. It is expected to last until Wednesday, Aug. 15. After that, crews will still be on the road applying striping.

A detour via McKercher Boulevard in Hailey and extending north along Buttercup Road will be used during some roadwork phases.

Jerke said Knife River is not allowed to do highway work on Saturdays or Sundays.


'Massive complaints'

Jerke acknowledged that the ITD District 4 office in Shoshone was inundated with "massive complaints' from motorists early last Thursday afternoon because of construction delays of more than an hour in the vicinity of the St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center.

"We had traffic backed up for a few miles in both directions," he said. "It did stir the pot quite a bit. There were delays up to an hour and longer. I heard as much as an hour-fifteen, an hour-twenty."

Jerke said the problem was caused by a bottleneck at the bridge across the Big Wood River near the hospital. Knife River was supposed to keep two lanes of traffic open at all times but was unable to do so because of the narrow bridge and its approaches.

Eventually because of the traffic delays, ITD ordered Knife River and its subcontractors to cease work altogether and allow traffic through. Jerke said highway workers "weren't happy" about the situation because they had just laid some fresh paving and "we're concerned about 'splatter' on vehicles.

"We haven't had any complaints about that yet," Jerke said. "We're all keeping our fingers crossed that's the biggest hiccup that happens with this portion of the work."

Terry Smith:

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