Friday, August 23, 2013

Construction resumes on highway

Sheriff orders that two lanes of traffic be kept open

Express Staff Writer

    Following a six-day work suspension because of the Beaver Creek fire, Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey allowed Idaho Sand & Gravel Co. to resume construction on Thursday on state Highway 75 south of Ketchum.
    “Yesterday I called them and told them that today they could resume construction at 9 o’clock, with the caveat that if this thing blew up again, and we had to make evacuations, they would have to desist immediately,” Ramsey said Thursday.
    The sheriff said a second caveat is that that the contractor keep two lanes of traffic open at all times.
    “Under the natural disaster clause, I, as the sheriff, can suspend construction,” Ramsey said.
    Ramsey was referring to a clause common in construction contracts, often referred to as “force majeure,” that releases contract parties from liability in the event of circumstances beyond their control, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods or fires.
    Idaho Sand & Gravel and the Idaho Transportation Department were first notified of the suspension on Thursday, Aug. 15, Ramsey said. Work remained suspended from last Friday through Tuesday because of heavy traffic while evacuations were underway and because fire equipment needed to use the highway.

“Under the natural disaster clause, I as the sheriff can suspend construction.”
Gene Ramsey

    Ramsey allowed the company to use a grader and a water truck in the construction zone on Wednesday, but ordered that the equipment was to be kept off the highway.
    Ramsey said he allowed construction to be resumed on Thursday because evacuations are coming to an end and firefighting work in the area has slowed down.
    “I have to balance public safety with the work,” the sheriff said. I don’t want to delay construction any more than I have to. I want to get the road done as bad as everybody.”
    The construction involves widening a 3.25-mile section of the highway from Timber Way north of East Fork Road to the bridge over the Big Wood River near St. Luke’s Wood River Hospital. When finished, the highway will have two lanes in both directions and will have center-turning lanes and side deceleration lanes at major intersections.
    Even before the suspension of construction because of the fire, ITD reported that construction was running a few weeks behind schedule and would likely not be finished before cold weather comes to the Wood River Valley. By contract, Idaho Sand & Gravel is allowed to finish the project when warmer weather arrives in the spring of 2014.
    “I don’t see it getting done this year,” said Ramsey, who is a member of the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee, an organization that provides advice and coordinates local construction activities with ITD.

Terry Smith:

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