By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
In theory, work along Chemawa Road North should be in full gear as the renovation project nears completion.
But theory and reality aren’t always the same, which is clearly evident in this case.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) project to renovate the busy thoroughfare from Keizer Rapids Park to River Road, at a cost of $3.5 million, was to be completed last year – and the year before that. Issues with utility relocations helped lead to the project’s completion being delayed until this year.
In April project manager Shane Ottosen with ODOT expected work to be done by early to mid-July.
At this point, it’s unclear if the project will even be back under way by mid-July.
“Additional utilities were countered and a partial redesign was needed,” Ottosen said June 27. “The redesign was sent to the contractor a few days ago and we are waiting for his review and response. We certainly want him to get back in as soon as possible.”
While it’s an ODOT project, Keizer Public Works director Bill Lawyer noted he is constantly getting questions about the status of the project.
“I’m getting real, real tired of saying I don’t know,” Lawyer said last week. “I have no idea. I have a lot of people asking questions. I send everybody to ODOT. One thing I know for sure is we’re missing the construction season to get the work done again.
“We did run across one other utility issue that was unexpected by anybody,” he added. “A gas line didn’t get relocated correctly, so the contractor stopped all work until that was done. We have done additional work to make sure there’s not another surprise utility in the way.”
One of the main parts of the project involves turn lanes at the intersection of Chemawa Road and Celtic Way, the road where McNary High School is located. The project also calls for putting in a traffic light at that intersection.
A big advantage to doing that work during the summer would be no school traffic. School resumes on Sept. 2.
“The work, in general, is not directly tied to the school schedule,” said ODOT’s Cliff Rose, the assistant project manager. “Certainly, construction is easier when school is out and this is the ‘construction season.’”
Chris Eppley, Keizer’s city manager, noted Lawyer has offered the ability to close Chemawa Road to through traffic if that would speed up the construction process.
“The city would have the final word about street closures, and would develop routing should it come to that,” Eppley said June 30. “At the moment, we have only offered that as a possible option so as to move the project forward. We have not received any notice from ODOT that a street closure will be utilized or would be allow for a quicker completion of the project.”
The project has been riddled with delays, leading to frustration.
“It is the most frustrating project I’ve had,” Lawyer said. “I’ve been involved in other projects with periods of frustration that might equal this, but overall this project is the most frustrating, no question about it. With city projects, we have control and authority to deal with issues. That’s just the way it is; there are always issues with construction projects.
“We have none of that (authority) on this project,” he added. “That’s really hard. We as the Public Works department take a lot of pride in what is built in our city. To have no or very little control, it’s hard to handle. There have been a lot of issues with this project. There have been multiple things.”