U.S. 40 paving project reaches east side of Steamboat, remains on schedule | CraigDailyPress.com

U.S. 40 paving project reaches east side of Steamboat, remains on schedule

Tom Ross

— New lanes of fresh asphalt have begun to extend out on U.S. Highway 40 from the east side of downtown Steamboat Springs this week, marking a landmark in the largest highway construction project to affect the city since 2010, when the Lincoln Avenue stretch of the highway was torn up and replaced with concrete.

Connell Resources Construction Manager Eric Marsh said Friday that the project, due to be completed Dec. 5, is on schedule.

"We're still on pace," Marsh said. "On the west side from Dream Island to 13th, that's almost done. There is still some center median to fill in." On the east side of downtown, "from Third to the Hampton Inn, there's a ribbon (of asphalt) on both sides, so hopefully by Wednesday night next week (Sept. 24), the first phase will be completed."

The most significant inconvenience for motorists right now comes up when they approach points along the highway where traffic must narrow to one lane because concrete workers are repairing curb-and-gutter center medians and new ramps for wheelchair users.

Although the project has been underway for seven weeks, motorists still are adjusting to signage posted by the contractor asking motorists to remain in two lanes until they reach the designated narrowing point, where they are asked to alternate, Marsh said. Typically, what seems to be happening is that motorists, out of a sense of propriety, have been moving over as soon as they see a sign alerting them to the fact that the road will narrow.

"It's human nature," Marsh said. "Everybody sees the signs, and they merge over for courtesy. Everybody feels bad like you're cheating the line and you're not waiting your turn."

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But the contractors have a specific reason for asking motorists to wait until they reach the merge point before proceeding single file.

"If people merge early, we'll back up side streets and even several intersections," Marsh explained. "If they merge at the merge point, the stacking room is a lot less."

In spite of a certain amount of confusion among motorists, traffic has flowed smoothly during the 5 p.m. rush hour on both sides of town, with some interruptions as asphalt-paving equipment stages in preparation for working through the night.

There have been times, at about 9 p.m., when long lines of cars are backed up. Marsh said a big change arrives at about 11 p.m., when the volume of cars and trucks drops off dramatically.

Clint Moyer, resident engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation in the Craig office, said he's impressed with the speed of the paving process and with the efficiency of concrete workers employed by Duckels Construction of Steamboat Springs.

"The curb-and-gutter work is ahead of schedule," Moyer said. "Duckels is beating their own" timetable.

He said the concrete work is challenging because crews have to patch small pieces of gutter, sometimes just a span of a few feet, which typically slows the job.

"We’re really impressed with Duckels right now," Moyer said. "The curb and gutter are so broken apart, it's hard to make progress when it's 10 feet” at a time. “It's really impressive how they can form and get that done so quickly."

Marsh told Steamboat Today on Aug. 18 that he would need a change from the monsoon rain pattern (August was the second wettest on record) to avoid asking his crews to work on weekends. That since has worked out for the better with clear September skies.

Still, asphalt work is temperature sensitive and must be poured at 45 degrees and higher, Marsh said. Although September has brought some cold overnight temperatures, it's the actual temperature of the existing asphalt that matters, and the old pavement is holding the heat of the afternoon sun sufficiently to allow paving to take place.

"As fast as Duckels is moving, there's still a fair amount of concrete to complete," Marsh said. Paving will "lapse for a couple of weeks after next week."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1