Construction on a 3.25-mile section of state Highway 75 south of Ketchum has fallen behind schedule, leaving the Idaho Transportation Department with the expectation that the work won’t be finished this year.
“They’re behind schedule at least a couple of weeks on most things,” ITD District 4 spokesman Nathan Jerke said Wednesday. “They are allowed to go into next year and that’s extremely likely at this point.”
Jerke said the delays have been caused by a “bunch of little things that keep compounding.” Some utility relocation work is taking longer than expected. Also, Jerke said soil contamination at the former Dean Tire location was worse than expected and is taking longer for analysis and removal.
The ITD contract with Idaho Sand & Gravel Co. of Jerome allows for the work to be finished in 2014. The contract price is $9.4 million.
When finished, the project will have expanded the highway to four lanes from Timber Way just north of East Fork Road to the bridge over the Big Wood River near St. Luke’s Wood River hospital. There will also be intermittent center turn lanes and deceleration lanes at Gimlet Road, Cold Springs Drive and south Broadway Run. Also, a new light is being installed at the highway intersection with Hospital Drive.
The project is the first phase of a highway expansion plan that if eventually funded would provide for widening of the road all the way from Timmerman Junction to Saddle Road in north Ketchum. ITD does not know if or when federal highway funds will ever be available to complete the entire project.
Travelers through the construction zone are generally reporting delays from five to 10 minutes. Jerke said that degree of delay will continue throughout the project.
“Some days the delays are worse than others,” he said. “Most of the delays happen during busy traffic times either in the morning or the afternoon.”
Unlike two years ago when Knife River Corp. was building a new surface on the highway between Hailey and Ketchum, Jerke said, there have been relatively few complaints to ITD.
“We get a few here and there,” he said. “A lot of the comments come from people who live and work in the construction zone area. I think the people of the Wood River Valley are quite accepting of this project.”
In a construction update report issued on Wednesday, ITD stated that the contractor is still constructing new southbound lanes, complete with drainage facilities, and working on a noise wall at Drashner Trailer Park and a retaining wall at the rock outcrop near Owl Rock Road. Utility relocation work continues, as does testing of soils and developing a removal plan at the Dean Tire site.
Pipe installation for the Comstock ditch is still underway with traffic being diverted around the work area to maintain two lanes of traffic.
ITD reported that further traffic delays might be experienced by motorists when pipe installation begins at Clear Creek and at Hospital Drive. Dates have not been set as to when that work will begin.