Friday, October 11, 2013

Highway: 1 step back, 2 steps forward

Busy roadway will be only 2 lanes this winter

A crew from Idaho Sand & Gravel Co. lays new asphalt earlier this month on state Highway 75 north of East Fork Road. Some of the new asphalt, a test strip, was torn up and removed this week. Photo by Roland Lane

    Drivers who perceive the state Highway 75 paving project south of Ketchum to be a matter of digging stuff up, filling it in and digging it up again are right—but there’s a method to the apparent madness.
    Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Nathan Jerke said truckloads of chunks of newly laid asphalt carted from the site Tuesday were composed of a test strip that had failed density standards. He said the 1,000-foot-long strip was the first part of the second layer in a two-layer paving process. He said the first layer has been laid down on about a mile of the 3.25-mile project.
    “It’s not an uncommon thing to fail a test strip,” he said.
    Jerke said a second strip passed the density test, allowing contractor Idaho Sand & Gravel to continue paving the 12-foot-wide strip, half the width of the roadway being paved.
    Jerke also said dirt being removed last week from a portion of the construction area that had already been rolled smooth was the result of saturation from wet weather. He said the dirt that was removed was replaced with material that drains better.
    “The rain and snow we had caused about 10 days of extra work,” he said.
    Jerke said the construction crew hopes to have the road paved as far north as the southern entrance to St. Luke’s Wood River hospital before the start of winter.
    “They’re still fingers crossed, praying for good weather next week,” he said. “It’s still up in the air what the roadway’s going to look like [by winter].”
    He said that even under the best-case scenario, only two lanes of the highway will be open this winter. He said that if pavement is completed to the hospital, the old part of the highway will be closed and traffic will be directed onto the new part.
    Jerke said the entire width of the highway couldn’t be used because there’s an elevation difference between the old road and the new, which would require access ramps to be built at all the intersections. He also said the old roadway is now bumpy and would be difficult to plow.
    In any case, he said, a four-lane road isn’t of much benefit unless it can be completed for the entire distance, since a bottleneck would be created where it narrows to two lanes.
    The project is scheduled for completion when warm weather allows it in the spring.
    The construction project involves widening the section of the highway from Timber Way just north of East Fork Road to the bridge over the Big Wood River near St. Luke’s Wood River. When finished, the highway will have two lanes in both directions and will have center turning lanes and side deceleration lanes at major intersections.

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