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Flaggers ahead...but when?

"If school is getting out and the weather is warming, can the island's road-construction season be far behind?Unfortunately, yes. Work on the much-discussed roundabout at the busy intersection of Madison Avenue and High School Road was supposed to begin right after classes at Bainbridge High School and Ordway Elementary concluded for the year.That won't happen.The idea was to finish the work by the time school starts in the fall. While that time frame is still conceivable, it could come about only if the project goes strictly according to schedule. And recent experience suggests that it's a rare construction project that goes according to plans.Our contract will provide incentives for finishing the roundabout before school starts, and penalties for delays, said Jeff Jensen, city engineer. Contractors respond to those incentives, but there's no guarantee we're going to make it.The roundabout work, which will close one of the island's busiest intersections, is perhaps the highest-profile work planned for this year. But it's actually a part of a much bigger project - the reconstruction of High School Road from Madison west to Sportsman Club Road.Not even the rosiest of scenarios ever projected the whole job being finished by the time school resumes. Now, given the delays that have already occurred, it looks like the earliest the reconstruction could finish would be mid-December.The immediate problem is that work will not begin when school ends this week. At best, advertisements to solicit the bids for doing the work will be published this Saturday. The state Department of Transportation is still reviewing our project documents, Jensen said. We're trying to prod them as best we can, but this isn't the only project they're dealing with.Once the state gives its approval, advertisements will solicit bids. By law, the project must be advertised for 21 days. Once bids are received, Jensen said, staff review and contractor selection could be done quickly. But the contract would then require city council approval.The council only holds two regular meetings per month. But Jensen hopes that will not cause more delays.If there is not a regular meeting scheduled right away, we might ask the council to call a special meeting, Jensen said. Once the council lets the contract, then the contractor by law has 20 days to do the necessary paperwork on his end, such as securing required bonds. And after that, the contractor, again by law, has 10 days to mobilize - to actually move to the job site and begin working.The actual work on the roundabout is estimated to take 21 calendar days, Jensen said. The contract anticipates work going on six days a week, 12 hours per day.Adding those time frames together, Jensen said there is no assurance that work will actually begin before mid-August.With the incentives we plan to offer to finish by the time school starts, we hope that our contractor might be able to shorten the mobilization time, or the document-review time, and begin work sooner, Jensen said.If work started on Aug. 13, it would be possible - just barely - to finish the roundabout by Sept. 4, the Tuesday after Labor Day, when school resumes, Jensen said.DelaysA number of factors have contributed to the delays.First, the city council didn't give its final approval to the roundabout until mid-March, whereas the original hope was for January approval. Design work consumed extra time, as has state approval.There are always unknowns on a project of this magnitude, Jensen said. It's basically an accumulation of things.During the roundabout construction, the intersection of High School and Madison will be completely closed. The closure will be conspicuous because the detours are lengthy.For example, someone leaving the Village parking lot would have to go to Highway 305, then either north to Madison and New Brooklyn or south to Winslow Way to get to the south end of the island.If the intersection is still closed when school resumes, the bus schedules will be affected, Jensen said.We haven't discussed this with the schools, but it might be that some of the buses for the high school would have to unload at Ordway, he said.High-profile as it is, the roundabout is actually the smaller part of the project. Rebuilding High School Road west to Sportsman is slated to take 95 working days - the equivalent of 19 full weeks. But holidays and the inevitable fall weather delays are not counted as working days in that schedule.Jensen said the only outright road closure required by that project will be the approximately week-long closure of the short segment of High School Road between Sportsman and Weaver Road, where drains will be installed. Otherwise, one lane of High School Road will be open with flaggers regulating traffic.Because the project is receiving state and federal grant funds, and is on this year's priority list for that money, Jensen said it is important that the job begin this year, notwithstanding the delays.We may reach a point where we have to sort of button it up for the winter, and let it be bumpy for a while, he said. But we will start the work this year. "

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