Paving began Tuesday on the Sage Creek highway and bridge replacement project between Lovell and Cowley, and if all goes well, paving could be completed by the end of next week, WyDOT resident engineer Mike Miller reported.
A paving crew from McGarvin-Moberly Construction started laying asphalt on the furthest east end of the project and will work to the west, adding an additional lane of traffic on the north and south of the existing highway east of the Shoshone River bridge, which is also being widened.
Paving will take 12 to 14 days to complete, Miller said, “if everything goes well and the weather is good.” He said the paving crew will work on Saturdays.
Miller expected two-way traffic to resume on the Shoshone River bridge Wednesday, with the Jersey barrier down the middle pushed to the curb and traffic returning to normal for the fall and winter. The two-minute traffic light for one-way traffic would also be removed.
Miller said the $11.6 million project is designed primarily to improve safety near the Oasis Junction by adding highway lanes to alleviate congestion and to replace the 81-year-old railroad bridge north of the junction, along with the nearby bridge over Sage Creek.
He said the highway is being widened to five lanes (turning lane in the middle) to the four-lane Shoshone River bridge, after which the highway will again be five lanes until about the Cannery Road, where it will begin to taper back to two lanes. From there, a leveling and overlay portion of the project will continue on to Cowley.
Paving will proceed west to and then past the Shoshone River Bridge, then north to the brand new bridges over the railroad and Sage Creek. The overlay will be added to the highway past the bridges.
Miller said the reason some of the highway north and west of the bridges has already seen pavement removed is that some of the pavement was milled to get to a 2 percent crown on the highway.
He said there could be occasional delays of up to 20 minutes on the leveling and overlay portion of the highway project from the bridges to Cowley, probably next week, since the highway is only two lanes at that point.
For the widening and reconstruction portion of the project, however, two-way traffic should prevail, even during paving, Miller said, although some traffic control will be needed where county roads intersect with the main highway.
Traffic will start using the two new bridges in mid-November, Miller predicted.
The old bridges will be torn down over the winter, Miller said, and the final portion of the project will be completing the two new lanes on the Shoshone River bridge. Once the new outside lanes are completed next year, he said, traffic will use the new lanes while the older center lanes are demolished and replaced with new bridge decking.
Miller told the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce membership Monday that the construction and engineering crew was to meet with Western Sugar leadership Monday afternoon to coordinate efforts as sugar beet trucks drive to the factory.
The prime contractor on the project is S&S Builders of Gillette, a bridge construction company, using a number of local and area subcontractors.
By David Peck