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Caltrans Widens SR-63

Thu August 13, 2009 - West Edition
Erik Pisor

During the early and mid-2000s the city of Visalia, Calif., experienced significant residential homebuilding activity and a noticeable population growth.

As with most cities, this residential growth was a sign that infrastructure-related construction projects, aimed at reducing traffic congestion, were soon to follow.

Caltrans District 6 and Teichert Construction are underway on the $12 million, state Route 63/Mooney Boulevard widening project, which will expand a 3-mi. (4.8 km) stretch of 4-lane highway into a 6-lane conventional highway.

The stretch, which runs from Packwood Creek to state Route 198, features more than 500 businesses and serves as the main lifeline to the city.

“Most Caltrans projects in this area are out in open spaces away from pedestrians and businesses,” said Chase McElree, project manager for Teichert. “Because this project is right in the middle of town it makes it both unique and challenging to work around the traveling public and the businesses.”

Since construction began in July 2008, the four existing lanes along Mooney Boulevard have remained open during daytime commuter hours, as Caltrans allows Teichert to close lanes only between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.

This has affected the schedule of the 20 to 25 Teichert employees working on the project.

“With the time change and it getting light earlier, we have begun working early in the morning to try to avoid the mid-day traffic,” McElree said, adding Teichert has maintained access to all businesses during construction.

Maintaining driveway access to these businesses has proved to be a challenge especially during sidewalk and pavement removal and replacement, said Tami Conrado, public affairs officer for Caltrans.

Throughout construction, businesses with multiple driveway access have been allowed to use at least one access while the other access is being worked on.

If a business has only a single access, Teichert has tried to work in that area at night after the business has closed. If this is not possible the businesses were allowed to utilize half of their access during the day while construction occurred on the other half.

Teichert and Caltrans have kept local business owners and the Visalia Chamber of Commerce up to date on construction activity and project progress by attending monthly meetings.

While no daytime road closures have been necessary, Caltrans and Teichert have worked with the city’s transit system in order to provide bus detours and temporarily relocate bus stops located within each stage of the project.

With the project limits being located in such a highly populated business district, utilities-related challenges also have arisen during construction.

“During the first stage of road work the coordination with outside agencies, city representatives, and utility companies, proved to be a challenge during the relocation of these utilities,” Conrado said, adding a large amount of utilities have since been relocated underground.

In an effort to avoid possible delays, Caltrans and Teichert agreed to begin utility relocation work within phase 2, prior to completion of phase 1.

As of mid-June 2009, Teichert had completed the first phase of construction and was working concurrently on phases 2 and 3.

According to Conrado, the project was divided into six separate phases to reduce overall impact to the traveling public and reduce the number of businesses affected at one time.

As part of phase 1 and 2 construction the southbound and northbound lanes were widened by one lane apiece, and new sidewalks and drainage were constructed.

The first two phases were broken up into six separate stages.

Important stages within those phases included Stage 1B, which consisted of widening the southbound portion of Mooney Boulevard from Walnut Avenue to Sunnyside Avenue, McElree said.

Stage 1C picked up where Stage 1B left off by widening the southbound portion of Mooney Boulevard from Sunnyside Avenue to Packwood Creek. Preliminary construction of Stage 1C had been underway since the winter months of 2008 in order to prepare for pavement and sidewalk removal, which began in April of this year.

Phase 2 involved similar widening of the northbound lanes along the 3-mi. stretch of Mooney Boulevard.

Phase 3 includes the widening of intersections and the addition of new street light signals and electrical.

As part of the phase, 20 bus bay turnouts also will be constructed at major intersections and at mid-block locations.

Phase 4 construction will involve adding a taper to the outside edge of the travel way for traffic.

Phase 5 is another significant portion of the project, as it includes median work that consists of demolishing the old median and planting.

In this phase, Teichert will add additional dual left-turn lanes and exclusive right-turn lanes, at four major intersections; narrow the median, for additional lane width; and add new planting, according to McElree.

In addition, the city also will make identical upgrades to two other intersections, Conrado said.

The final project phase is a grind and overlay of the entire project limits and re-striping.

Currently the project is on schedule for a November 2009 completion, confirmed Conrado, adding Teichert was selected because the contractor was the lowest qualified bidder.

When the project reaches completion approximately 5,890 cu. yds. (4,500 cu m) of concrete and 33,070 tons (30,000 t) of alternating current will have been used, McElree said, adding because the project involves no bridge construction only a small amount of steel is being used.

While the project has posed some “unique” challenges, no specialty equipment has been utilized.

According to McElree, only skip loaders, loaders, excavators, backhoes, blades, water trucks and various sized rollers have been used.

All this equipment, the majority of which is owned by Teichert, has been involved in excavating and grading dirt, and compacting and grading aggregate base.

Subcontractors on the project have included: W. Jaxson Baker, paving; Fresno Concrete Construction, concrete work; Roadway Electric Works, electrical; Elite Landscaping; and Sudahkar Company, re-striping. CEG

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