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By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer
As Ketchikan enters another fall season, another section of the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities’ expansive Front, Mill and Stedman streets project has begun.
Garrett Paul, who is the DOT construction project manager, told the Daily News on Wednesday that new road reconstruction began Oct. 3 on a section of downtown just north of the Stedman Street Bridge near Mill Street.
Paul and DOT Spokesperson Aurah Landau said that this portion of the project is expected to last into March, although there will be a bit of respite during the winter months.
“We’re not sure when we’re going to do the final lift of the pavement but it should be sealed up, with pavement, by the end of March,” Paul said.
“We’re going to be working on storm drains and sidewalks until roughly mid-December,” Paul said. “Then there will be a slight winter break, and we’ll start back up in February sometime, and when we start back up in February we’re going to be working on the road on Mill Street and the remainder of Stedman Street.”
Paul said that Mill Street, which was named after the old mill that used to exist in downtown Ketchikan, offers some unique challengers to workers.
He explained that there are sort of “pimples” in the road from preexisting pilings that are decades old.
“There was actually a dock there on pilings — wood pilings — those pilings were filled in with dirt and then the road was built,” Paul explained. “So the pilings are still underneath the road. … You can see where the piles are sticking up, almost through the pavement. There (are) just little bumps down there.”
Paul, who has been with DOT for 10 years, said he hasn’t had to handle underground pilings popping up under the asphalt like in Ketchikan.
“That’s unique as far as I know,” he noted.
Landau also highlighted the interesting challenges that come with working on Ketchikan’s road system.
“Ketchikan just in general is pretty unique (in that) a lot of that Tongass Highway and the downtown area is either on filled pilings, there are portions on viaducts too,” Landau said. “… It’s a tougher surface for the pavement and so it doesn’t last as long.”
“Ketchikan as a whole is a little bit unique,” she added.
Paul said that the pilings would be pared down so that they don’t cause any issues with the roads in the future.
“This project is going to remove all the pavement and we’re going to expose all of those piles and we’re going to cut them off about four feet down so that they don’t reflect through the new pavement or cause any pavement failure in the future,” he said.
This new phase of construction that began this month essentially concludes work that DOT had been doing from the Stedman Street Bridge to about Deermount Street.
“That section that we worked on this summer, it has its final lift of pavement, and really the only thing remaining on that section is final striping,” Paul explained. “Right now there is temporary striping down, and as soon as the whole project is paved up, we’re going to stripe it all at once.”
After the current phase of the project ends around March, Paul said that construction would begin to move up Front Street.
“There’s the curb-ramp work over there, a little bit of water-line work, so in general it’s going to be sidewalk work, storm drains again, as well as some bridge work and pavement,” he said.
Overall, Paul and Landau said they were pleased with the progression of the project as a whole. Paul said that commuters and businesses in Ketchikan have been accommodating, and that DOT has worked its hardest to accommodate residents throughout the process.
“Overall I’m pretty happy with how things are going, the folks of Ketchikan have taken it easy on us, I guess, or either we’re doing a really good job,” Paul said. “We’re cognizant of the traffic-control needs down there. It’s a busy corridor; there (are) lots of pedestrians.”
“We’ve been pretty successful with moving traffic through there and keeping Ketchikan flowing I guess,” he added.
Overall completion of the Front, Mill and Stedman street reconstruction project is expected to come sometime in the fall of 2019.