UDOT Awards Bid, Prepares to Start Helper Interchange Project
|Motorists drive through Helper last Friday, passing the Main and Street U.S. Highway 6 junction. Starting in a few weeks, lane restrictions will take place as construction on the Helper interchange starts in earnest.|
Construction on the Helper interchange which will route traffic on U.S. Highway 6 over the top of an intersection with north Main Street will soon begin.
"Yes, the project was bid out in March and we awarded the bid in late April," said Myron Lee, Utah Department of Transportation Region 4 spokesman told the Sun Advocate on Friday. "The bid was awarded to W.W. Clyde of Springville and there will be a preconstruction meeting next Wednesday to discuss a start date for the project."
For residents it will be the beginning of the end of a long period of distraction concerning the project. The idea of an overpass has been on the burner for years. For the last three years, time after time, one thing or another has delayed it.
In 2004 and 2005 officials sent the project to bid twice and both times all the bids by contractors came in more than what the state's engineers had estimated the new structure would cost. This time, however, the contractor was able to get the bid within the constraints of the bid parameters.
Last fall, the plans were again updated and presented to the Helper City Council for their information. At the time, adjustments to the plans were made by Stanley Consultants, the project designer, so that bidders could better fit their costs into the plan. The result of those changes is an interchange that will span a shorter distance, but will be scalable for expansion in the future as traffic warrants and funding permits.
Original plans called for the separation of the two lanes of travel on the highway. The revised plans leave the lanes where they presently exist. This will save on the cost of constructing new travel lanes.
Another alteration to the plans is the shortening the length of the exit and entrance ramps. The original plans called for a change that would affect more than a quarter mile in each direction. The adjusted plans reduce that distance by shortening the ramps. The grade of the revised ramps will be 3 percent on the north side of the interchange and 5 percent on the south side. Because these grades will not allow headlights to illuminate the ramps well enough, project designers will be adding additional lighting to the project. The shorter ramps will mean roads both north and south will be more accessible than under original plans.
One example of this was when the interchange was first designed, Martin Road and the end of North Main Street near Workmen's Market would only be accessible from one direction of Highway 6. Martin Road was also planned to come to a dead end at Highway 6. Under new plan Martin Road will be accessible from westbound Highway 6 only.
Cars exiting Martin Road onto the highway will be able to turn both left and right onto the highway. When project designers presented the plans to the city council, they explained that eastbound traffic will not be able to safely turn left onto Martin Road.
The result will be similar to the intersection of Poplar Street and U.S. 6. But no concrete barriers will be necessary at Martin Road like at the Poplar Street junction.
At Workmen's Market, eastbound highway traffic will be able to turn right. And traffic will be able to turn right from North Main Street to eastbound U.S. 6. There will be no left turn to or from the highway6 at the intersection.
Another modification to the design was leaving the speed through Helper at 55 mph. Original plans had called for an increase to 65 mph. However, with the revisions of the interchange and neighboring intersections, the speed will be left at 55 mph through Helper.
Utilities that currently run next to the highway will be moved as necessary. In addition a water and sewer line for Price River Water Improvement District and two water conveyance lines for Price will be affected. When Price replaced the lines through the area a few years ago, UDOT asked that they not replace the portion that will be affected by the interchange construction. That portion as well as lines operated by PRWID will be replaced by construction crews once the project is finalized.
However, one of the developments that have come out of preliminary contacts with the contractor is that some of the pipe needed for reconstructing the lines will not be available until August. That means plans to go ahead with the overpass construction will have to be modified to meet this problem.
Lee said that one of the of the requirements for the contractor who was awarded the bid will be to keep two lanes of traffic on Highway 6 and at least one lane of North Main crossing the highway open at all times. The only times the highway will close will be at night when the beams of the bridge are set, and then traffic flow will have to be diverted in some way.
"Altogether the project will be $20 million," stated Lee. "The construction itself will cost $17 million while other aspects of the project such as engineering, inspection and mitigation will run about $3 million."
Discussions in the preliminary meeting to be next week will include a number of topics such as the work and plan schedule, what areas of the project will be started first, when various items will be completed, problems with material availability and any potential delays that may occur.
Lee said after the meeting next week a definite date for the construction startup will be released.