Work on Sitka’s Halibut Point Road will extend into the fall, several weeks longer than originally planned, after contractors ran into some unexpected obstacles buried within the road bed.
Heath Barger knows that Sitka residents are not enjoying the drive down Halibut Point Road these days.
Barger is the project manager at ASRC McGraw, the lead contractor on the Halibut Point Road construction. “We understand this has been a burden to the general public, with their vehicles, riding the whoop-de-doos and bumps and dips,” he says. “But, like I’ve always said, thank you for your patience, and we’ll continue to address this as soon as we can.”
Work on the project began last May, and was originally supposed to be done by the end of this month.
But crews recently ran into a series of concrete patches buried beneath the road surface — patches that weren’t marked on any city or state maps. The unmarked sections date back perhaps to the 1980s, Barger says, when utilities were laid beneath the road and patched over with concrete instead of asphalt.
Concrete can damage the machinery being used in the project, which essentially pulverizes the road bed, mulching and mixing the asphalt and underlying materials so that it can be reshaped.
The work had to be halted while the contractor brought in ground-penetrating radar to map the patches; over thirty have been found so far, and some will have to be torn out before work can continue as planned.
In the meantime, Barger says, he knows the road isn’t fun to drive.
“It’s just a challenge right now because you have exposed areas that when it rains, like it has been, they just turn to potholes very quickly,” he says. “If I was somebody who didn’t know what was going on and driving to work, I’d be pretty upset myself.”
Drivers have been particularly annoyed by the dips in the road — or, as Barger calls them, the whoop-de-doos — where culverts were installed last year. Those dips will go away once crews can get back out there and reshape the road bed, he says.
Halibut Point Road is a state road, and the project is being overseen by the state Department of Transportation. Barger says the total cost of the project is about $19-million. So far, crews have completed phase one, resurfacing Halibut Point Road from the roundabout out to Seamart.
Barger hopes that phase two, running from Seamart to Granite Creek, will be done by the end of August. The final phase, stretching from Granite Creek to the end of the road, should be finished by early fall. The contract deadline is September 15, but the discovery of the concrete patches might stretch work into October.
Barger says he knows it’s been inconvenient for drivers, but his crews are working as fast as they can.
“You gotta have a little patience with it,” he says. “And the end result, you’ll be very pleased with the end result.”
That end result will be a completely new surface from downtown to the end of the road — and no more work on HPR for a good long while.