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Night Construction Out; Spring Paving Likely

With west weather closing in, highway project running behind schedule

With the season of cool, wet weather closing in fast and the State Route 14 construction project behind schedule, the contractor and the city of Bingen have been looking for ways to speed up the work.

"It's hard to say how far behind they are. I do know they should be paving in the third week of October, but they have been granted eight extra working days at this point," said Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel. "The original paving schedule was tight anyway. Moving it back even a week jeopardizes the paving."

Prigel pointed out that the city and KLB Construction Co. are negotiating a change order to try to bring the schedule back to original projections. The city also expects to authorize additional payments for extra crews.

"KLB is planning on working six 11-hour days at the point," Prigel said.

One of the proposals under consideration called for allowing KLB to work through the night by adding a 7 p.m.-7 a.m. shift. Because part of SR 14 lies within the White Salmon city limits, Mayor Prigel came to White Salmon to request that the council members temporarily waive its noise ordinances and allow KLB to work through the night.

"We're trying to pick up the pace to get this thing done and paved before the weather closes in," Prigel explained.

The idea did not go over well with members of the White Salmon City Council, however, and the idea was shot down in a unanimous vote on Sept. 17.

Originally, the bulk of the paving, sidewalks, and streetscaping project was expected to be completed in early November. But Prigel said he was no longer optimistic the highway paving would be completed before winter.

"We fully expect the sidewalks to be done within three weeks," Prigel said. "But my gut feeling at this point is we'll get the leveling course -- which essentially sets an asphalt base -- but not get the finished paving surface done until spring. They'll come back and essentially do a repave then. That should take about a week. Then they'll come back for the striping."

While attending last week's White Salmon City Council meeting, Prigel explained that allowing night work for about two weeks would help the project get caught up.

"So they want to work 24 hours a day?" asked council member Tim Stone.

"Yes," answered Prigel.

Prigel pointed out that use of the rock hammer could be restricted during the nighttime hours to minimize the noise.

Members of the White Salmon council objected to the concept.

"Since I've been on this council, I've tried to do many things to limit noise in the daytime and nighttime," Stone said. "This is just one more thing. Every homeowner trying to sleep at those hours is going to find this objectionable."

Wil Keyser, director of White Salmon's Public Works Department, added that the rock hammer would not necessarily have the loudest impact in any case.

"I don't think we ought to assume the rock hammer is the only noise of that caliber. They're using large track hoes. Everything they want to do down there will make noise," Keyser said. "People are trying to sleep in that area, and you're going to get complaints just from dumping rock into the dump trucks. I'd have trouble recommending approval of a night shift."

Robin Hale, owner of Bridge RV Park, which is on SR 14 next to the construction work, strongly opposed the plan to work nights.

"It's not just the rock hammer. They're dragging steel plates up the road, scraping gravel, trucks are going with buzzers and beepers and horns tooting," Hale explained. "They start at 7 a.m. and always seem to start hammering in front of the RV park. It's been that way all summer, with noise so loud it shakes your RV trailer. These guys are obnoxious. They're using jake brakes constantly. We've had noise problems and dust problems. They've had all summer, now all of of sudden they're screaming they're late. I'd hate to see them go to 24 hours."

Hale also submitted a letter to the city stating his objections to working overnight.

"My business is my livelihood and relies on it being quiet at night for my customers. Any excess noise at night will impact it severely. My customers will shorten their stay or cancel altogether, causing a hardship I cannot afford," Hale wrote.

White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen said he understood Hale's point of view.

"I don't think your guests need to be disturbed in the middle of the night," Holen said.

"Our obligation is to protect the rights of citizens. I think this proposal would violate our noise ordinance," Stone said.

Stone then made a motion to reject KLB's request to operate 24 hours a day.

The motion passed with a 3-0 vote.

Council member Francis Gaddis said he believed KLB has not handled the project very well.

"I'm sure merchants in Bingen must be furious with what should be a fairly simple job of finishing the sidewalks," Gaddis said. "It's a mess. It's the biggest mess of a construction project I have ever seen."

Mike Wellman, who serves as engineer for the city of Bingen, said the project is about two weeks behind schedule, and new snags -- such as hitting pipelines or finding buried items that were not shown on site blueprints -- could slow the work even more.

"There are things that come up every day," Wellman said.

Jim Tobin, KLB's project manager, said the project was about two to three weeks behind schedule, but he noted that most of the delays were out of KLB's control.

"There have been a whole bunch of utility conflicts," he said.

Tobin added that he wasn't surprised at the White Salmon council's denial of the request to work nights.

"I expected it. All we were looking for was to minimize the impact to traffic," Tobin explained. "We'll just continue to work 10-12 hours a day, whatever we can. We hope to be done with the bulk of the work by the end of November."

Tobin said he understood the complaints.

"I can imagine people are frustrated. So are we. It's taking a long time," he said.

Wellman defended KLB's progress.

"It's easy for people to sit in White Salmon and say it's a mess, not knowing what goes on underground," Wellman said. "It's an extremely complex job. Sure, the contractor could have done some things better. But they've been a very professional operation, and I've been very pleased with them."

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