It’s going to take a bit longer than expected to complete the widening and improvements planned for state Route 36.
The project’s original completion date of fall 2018 has now been pushed back to late spring/early summer 2019. One of the reasons for the completion extension of time is tied to three weeks during July and August this year, when morning and afternoon complete road closures were lifted to provide access to the Redding area during the Carr Fire.
“We’ll probably be working another month or so until the rains come,” said project manager Mark Benzinger of Mercer-Fraser Company.
A few of the tasks underway include installation of retaining walls and soil nails, along with placement of base rock and paving. The project calls for the reduction in the number of curves in the road in the project area from 127 to 27, and many have already been eliminated.
There is currently a team of 60 to 70 Mercer-Fraser Company employees working on the project, and up to 86 pieces of equipment being operated.
“The crew out here are just great, some of the best,” Benzinger said at the job site earlier this week.
“And the wages on this job are a good little boost to the local economy,” he added.
A few dozen of the workers are from the Redding area, and rather than have them commute back and forth every day, Mercer-Fraser Company has set up a camp at its Dinsmore corporation yard, which is located just a few miles from the construction site. About half of the crew is living there in their own travel trailers during the week and then going home on the weekends.
At the corporation yard, Mercer-Fraser Company has installed a new asphalt plant and a materials testing lab. This is also where supplies and materials are delivered, and rock is crushed for use on the project. The materials testing lab was built specifically for the state Route 36 construction project.
“We do all our own quality control,” Benzinger said, “testing for aggregate quality, and base rock and asphalt testing.”
Some of the materials being used for the project are already on the construction site. When hillsides were cut back, some of that dirt was used in the fill areas. Many of the stumps which have been removed during the project are being ground up, mixed with soil, and then applied to fill areas as erosion control. Much of the rock being used is coming from off-site at a quarry owned by Mercer-Fraser. Benzinger said the project calls for using 45,000 tons of rock and only 5,000 tons were available on site.
The project will be in “maintenance mode” for winter, according to Benzinger, and while some work can continue, it is all weather permitting.
One thing is for certain, “from Nov. 1 to April 1, there can be no full road closures,” Benzinger said.
When full time work on the project resumes next year, tasks include installing a large culvert on Burr Creek, and hillside cuts, drainage installation, and retaining walls to be built on the east side of the four-mile long project section of state Route 36. Then there will be guardrail installation, signage, and striping. Benzinger estimates final completion in late June or early July 2019.
The state Route 36 construction project is a joint undertaking by the Federal Highway Administration, Caltrans and the U.S. Forest Service Six Rivers National Forest.