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Wet weather puts paving work on hold

Five more dry days was all the Washington Department of Transportation needed to complete its $8.3 million Highway 20 safety project. But given the grudge Mother Nature has been holding all summer, five days was too tall an order.

“We’ve had three straight weeks without getting one night we could pave,” said Dave Chesson, Department of Transportation spokesman.

Paving and sidewalk installation are the last phases of the project, an undertaking that began in April and extends from Sidney Street to Scenic Heights Road.

The DOT identified the stretch of road as high risk and has spent a wet summer changing the angle of roads that intersect with Highway 20, leveling hills and straightening curves to provide drivers better sight distance.

After Monday night’s precipitation precluded paving, the DOT decided to hang it up until spring.

“We’re buttoning up for the winter,” Chesson said. “Of course today’s beautiful, but we can’t pave during the day.”

The job was not expected to finish until next spring, though Chesson said the road crews were making auspicious progress and it appeared that an earlier completion date would be achievable.

“We normally stop paving around the first of October,” he said. “Last year we had a dry summer. This year there have been more projects and worse weather.”

If the crews were paving over gravel, rain would not be a factor. However, when paving over existing asphalt, the temperature needs to exceed 45 degrees and the conditions must be completely dry.

Paving has only been scheduled for evenings and nights to lessen the adverse effects on traffic.

Signs warning of bumps in the road have been up for more than a month, Chesson said. Acknowledging the likelihood that the remaining paving and sidewalk installation would have to wait until next year, crews recently leveled the marked sections, which have caused the onset of road rage in some commuters.

Paul Bovey, who lives at the corner of Highway 20 and Harbor Vista Circle, has been incensed throughout the construction process. The most recent news did not make the frustration abate.

“The whole thing, it’s just been a can of worms,” he said. “It seems they’re pouring money into absolutely nothing without proper planning. I’m not happy at all.”

Failing eyesight will keep Bovey from even attempting to navigate the pseudo-sidewalks.

“I can’t walk on the sidewalks the way they have them now,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Lakeside Industries, the company tasked with paving, has been spread thin with other projects that have been similarly delayed by the weather, Chesson said.

“They have other jobs,” he said. “These guys have really been working hard and pushing it, but they pave all over.”

Putting the finishing touches on the project was a top priority, but the ability to complete the paving was solely weather dependent.

“We know this has put people out of their way,” Chesson said. “We wanted to get this done. It’s not as nice and smooth as a finished road. It’s like fixing the dents on a car and leaving the primer.”

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