New delays in finishing the State Route 14 paving project are forcing Bingen city officials to drop plans for concrete intersections.
The repaving and streetscaping work, which stretches from the Hood River Toll Bridge to the eastern city limits of Bingen, began in March of 2003. The project was originally expected to be completed by November 2003, but progress has been slowed by a series of setbacks and cost overruns.
At last week's meeting of the Bingen City Council, Mayor Brian Prigel told council members that completion of the SR 14 paving -- originally expected to get under way in early April -- will not begin until early June.
Prigel explained that the contractor, KLB Construction, wants to wait until temperatures warm up to a consistent, reliable 65 degrees before proceeding.
"Some grinding and fill work will also be needed before the paving starts," Prigel added.
Prigel requested that the council alter the project specifications, which called for concrete intersections, because concrete takes significantly longer than asphalt to put down and to dry.
"The budget is tight and we're running out of time," Prigel said, "so we're re-evaluating. It takes three days to cure concrete before we can allow traffic. It would take 15-20 working days to get that (concrete) project done."
Prigel added that concrete work costs more as well.
Another snag with the downtown streetscaping project centers around the new trees planted around the downtown area. Approximately 70 maple trees were placed along sidewalks in the business district, but the tree wells were not installed properly and the new irrigation system to water them still does not work.
Contractors have had to tear up the new sidewalks in efforts to fix the faulty irrigation system. Sections of the sidewalks have not yet been repaired.
"We may have to bring water in so we don't lose the trees," Prigel said. "There is a looming crisis with the plantings."
To ensure that no more sidewalks will need to be torn up, Prigel said that no more trees, benches or trash cans will be put into place until the irrigation system is tested and proven to work.
Council members expressed growing impatience over the problems.
"We're having these nice sunny days and no one is working. That's what's frustrating," said council member Jeanette Fentie. "We're trying to get businesses motivated, and there's nothing getting done."
"It's discouraging," added councilor Betty Barnes. "I'm willing to accept June 1 for the paving, but why is no one out there working?"
"It's a big joke," Anderson said.
Council member Laura Mann pointed out that as the weather improves and tourist season arrives, the torn up downtown is going to hurt.
"As the weather gets better, it's more in people's faces," Mann explained.
To speed the work along, Prigel recommended that the council drop the planned concrete intersections and go instead with a "Dura-Therm" process, which features an inlaid reflective plastic material. According to Prigel, that process would be cheaper than using concrete or brick, offer more flexibility in design and colors, and be much faster to install.
Prigel said traffic can drive over Dura-Therm products within 90 minutes of when it is installed.
The switch to Dura-Therm instead of concrete would save the city approximately $100,000.
"I really like the reflective quality. It will show up at night," Prigel added.
Jan Brending, Bingen's city clerk, urged the council members to abandon the concrete, because it would disrupt traffic for so long.
"To be honest, I'm not sure our businesses can stand any more delays. I'm very concerned," Brending said. "I might take a long vacation if we do the concrete work. Paving is bad enough, but when we start closing streets down for two months, it's something to take into consideration."
Council member Randy Anderson made a motion to accept the Dura-Therm proposal.
"It looks the best, lasts the longest, and is the best deal for our money," Anderson said.
The council voted unanimously to make the change.
Yet to be determined will be the color of the inlay and the pattern.
KLB, based in Mukilteo, was awarded the $4.6 million SR 14 contract in February of 2003.