Record road projects on schedule

VIRGINIA — St. Louis County’s largest single-year construction lineup remains on schedule for a late August completion.

The first phase of resurfacing on County State Aid Highway 16 is nearing completion, said County Commissioner Keith Nelson, and Phase 2 is set to begin Monday from Highway 4 to the Lake County line.

The second phase is budgeted at $7.1 million and carries an Aug. 25 estimated completion time. A county press release said the phase is expected to be finished in early September.

Highway 16 — or Townline Road — is the biggest project, Nelson said, and part of $60 million being spent across the county this year. The road is a main thoroughfare for logging companies and a direct route to the North Shore.

“It’s going very, very well on a number of roads and bridges,” he added. “All the projects are on schedule and moving along nicely.”

The county announced in March it would spend $119 during the next two construction seasons on road and bridges, boosted by a half-cent transportation sales tax initiative passed by the St. Louis County Commission. Low energy costs and flexible interest rates allowed the county to bond ahead of time.

The county gained $40 million from general obligation capital improvement bonds — $20 million a year for 2015 and 2016 — to be paid in full by devoting 100 percent of the new Transportation Sales Tax revenue to these projects.

“These road projects are a direct result of the sales tax dollars brought into St. Louis County,” Nelson said.

The sales tax is estimated to bring in $10.5 million per year.

St. Louis County Public Works said in a release the sales tax dollars propelled the Highway 16 project ahead three years, allowing it to be completed in the 2015 season.

Nelson called the largest back-to-back construction spending years a “big challenge” for the Public Works department, but said bid competition was high and traffic impacts have been minimal with the project phasing.

Phasing the more than 30-mile project, Nelson said, ensures the road isn’t opened up and not completed, but also allows for an incentive-based contract with companies.

“We incentivize contractors to finish in a timely manner, and it depends on their performance,” Nelson said. “They can earn extra money in some different parts of their contract.”

Highway 16 will remain open during resurfacing and traffic delays are anticipated with temporary lane closures and occasional rough surfaces.

Nelson said with the large amount of bids out for this year and 2016, the number of workers on the ground and road work in the area have increased.

He asked motorists to slow down in construction zones to avoid incidents.

“When you’re doing as much contracting as we’re doing, you want people to go home safely,” he said.

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