Monday, March 25, 2013

Salmon River Road delays begin Monday.

Narrows project traffic delays begin April 1
"The Challis Messenger"
March 21, 2013

People joke about Idaho having only two seasons: winter and road construction. With the coming of spring, Custer County residents should be prepared for the latter in the form of traffic delays scheduled to resume Monday, April 1, along on the Narrows Section of Highway 75.

Orofino-based Debco Construction restarts work that day on Phase 1 of the Narrows Project, which means motorists will see two-hour closures from 10 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. each weekday. Also, traffic will be limited to one lane with flaggers or automated traffic signals in place; and motorists can expect delays of up to 15 minutes between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

John Parsons photo.
The work area is on a 1.3-mile section of Highway 75 from milepost 205.4 to milepost 206.7 near Warm Springs Creek and Robinson Bar.

Phase 1 work consists of rock scaling and blasting, installation of concrete barriers and  traffic signals and is anticipated to last until mid-May, according to a public notice Debco is running in this week’s issue of The Challis Messenger.

Removing unstable rock from the steep hillside above Highway 75 will make the section safer for Phase 2 of the project, said Debco owner and project manager Lonnie Simpson. Bids go out for Phase 2 in April and the contract is expected to be awarded and work begun by the first of June, he said.

Phase 2 consists of building retaining walls and installing safety netting and mesh on the steep hillsides to protect the highway from rockfall. Debco is submitting a bid and hopes to continue the work throughout road construction season, 2013.

The company hopes to hire more rock scalers, but while there are rock climbers and others who could do the work, it’s difficult to find people who meet the strict qualifications demanded by the Federal Highway Administration, said Simpson.

Currently, FHA requires actual construction work experience as a rock scaler, but that’s a Catch-22 because there’s no apprenticeship program where people can be certified. Debco and other construction companies are working with FHA to get a training program approved, he said.

FHA has turned down military instructors who have taught troops technical rock climbing and served in Afghanistan, according to Simpson. Such veterans and some out-of-work miners with rock climbing experience are more than qualified to work on the steep rock faces above the highway, but Debco cannot currently hire them.

The above story appeared in the March 21 edition of "The Challis Messenger" and is Copyright 2013 by the Post Company.  All rights reserved.  The story is republished here with permission from Editor Anna Means.

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