More often than not, the weather has the final say.
WSDOT and its contractor, Northwest Construction, have been making every effort to complete the widening of State Route 9 between 212th and 176th Streets Southeast through Clearview.
The contractor crew successfully paved the last four-block section of southbound lanes between 176th and 180th Streets Southeast on Monday, Nov. 11. They placed about 600 tons of asphalt, the equivalent of 20 dump-truck sized loads. With the paving now complete on SR 9, the contractor will begin placing temporary striping throughout the length of the project in order to open two lanes in both directions. Striping work is weather-dependent. After that is complete, the crew will begin working on the raised center median and curbing.
Permanent striping will occur in spring 2014. Although we hoped to it all completed this year, WSDOT and Northwest Construction overcame many challenges the past month to complete paving.
The weather challenge
The main challenge has been the weather. Widening SR 9 required placing multiple layers of pavement which occurred throughout spring and summer. From April to the end of August, the paving contractor spread more than 22,276 tons of asphalt, about 742 truckloads. By September, the contractor was prepared to place the final layer. But the weather took a turn for the worse and September ended up being the wettest on record.
Paving isn’t normally allowed beyond Oct. 1, but to make up for this major loss of critical time in September, WSDOT gave the contractor permission to pave through end of the October. They were then challenged by cooler overnight temperatures, so WSDOT adapted yet again and gave the contractor permission to pave during the day when the temperatures are warmer. That resulted in the contractor completing most of the final paving. In September and October alone, they spread more than 17,312 tons of asphalt. That’s the equivalent of 577 truckloads.
With just 600 tons to go for the four-blocks between 176th and 180th Streets S.E., the weather intervened again. Thick, low-lying fog descended upon us and didn’t budge. That kept the pavement damp and conditions unsuitable for paving.
What are suitable conditions for paving?
- When ground temperatures are 45 degrees or higher.
- It’s not raining.
- The ground must be dry.
Although there were dry days in October and early November, the pavement remained slightly damp. It must be absolutely dry before we can put down a new layer of asphalt on top of it. If it’s not bone-dry, a solid, strong bond between layers of asphalt won’t develop and the pavement will fall apart.
With good weather windows dwindling, the paving subcontractor brought out the big gun on Monday, Nov. 11: a jet engine. Yes, you read that right. It’s a jet engine that’s been modified and mounted on a trailer. The engine puts out a lot of hot air and dries the pavement. They’re frequently used on car racing tracks. With that, the last bit of pavement was placed on SR 9.
The crew challenge
Another challenge has been scheduling paving and striping contractors who are also available when the weather is favorable. This project has competed with many other WSDOT, local agency and private developer projects for the same limited resources in the construction industry for the paving and striping work. Everyone has been affected by the weather challenges over the past couple months and the contractors are stretched to their limits trying to meet the needs of everyone.
WSDOT and the contractor share the disappointment of area residents, businesses and drivers that the project will not be completed this fall as hoped. However, if contractor crews performed the paving and striping work during unfavorable conditions, the new highway will begin breaking down sooner. We hold the contractor responsible for delivering durable pavement. If it’s not, they will have to return to remove failing pavement and repave. That’s another round of delays and construction both WSDOT and the contractor don’t want to put drivers through. It’s also an expensive “re-do.” Everyone wants it built right the first time.
What’s next for SR 9?
When the weather permits and striping crews can be scheduled on short notice, the contractor will do their best to continue striping between 201st and 176th Streets Southeast to open two lanes in both directions.
As striping is completed (again weather-dependent), crews will also start working on the raised center median, U-turn pockets and curbs. Drivers can expect nighttime single lane closures during this work. The location will change on a regular basis as more of the median is constructed. There will also be right lane single lane closures during the day for curb work.
Permanent striping will be completed in spring 2014.
WSDOT and Northwest Construction thank you
We know those who use SR 9 in Clearview are awfully tired of construction barrels. Businesses in the area remain open. Thank you to the drivers, residents and business owners for their patience and understanding as we work with the contractor to complete the widening work on SR 9.