Weather spurs early roadwork |

Weather spurs early roadwork

Griffin Rogers
Tony Brackett, left, checks for traffic while Wayne Whittlesey watches Jon Root measure down to the inlet of a manhole. On Wednesday, the Caltrans survey crew was checking the drainage systems on Highway 50.
Griffin Rogers / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

For those keeping track, you can now add “spring roadwork in January” to the unusual occurrences resulting from this season’s drier-than-usual weather.

The city of South Lake Tahoe has been using street crews to fill in cracks and perform other small maintenance tasks instead of doing what it normally does this time of year: plow snow.

Similarly, Caltrans survey workers have been busy checking pipe and manhole depths along Highway 50. It’s preliminary work, but spokesman Steve Nelson said it keeps the organization ahead of schedule.

“They are able to just catch up on things they wouldn’t normally be able to do,” he said.

Work on certain large-scale road projects is not permitted due to restrictions from government agencies, such as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Still, completing some work now does have its benefits, said Jim Marino, assistant public works director for the City of South Lake Tahoe.

“It helps get the projects going faster,” he said.

During normal winters — or winters with a lot more snow — the city’s public works department spends most of its time plowing the streets or repairing damage from wild vehicles and violent storms.

Sign replacement and damage claims are typical during all-white winters. But the city also spends a significant sum of money on roadway abrasives — such as sand — before storms hit and street-sweeping efforts after storms pass, Marino said.

The city usually goes through about 50 tons of roadway abrasives per year.

Without the snow, however, there’s no doubt the city is saving quite a bit of money as the drier conditions continue, Marino said.

“We haven’t expended near the amount of budget we should have,” he said.

While the weather has helped some agencies get a jumpstart on roadwork, it has also helped some non-roadwork projects stay on schedule.

The Chateau project — the fenced construction site located across from Harveys — has continued to make progress on about 28,000 square feet of proposed retail and restaurant space.

The weather hasn’t put the project ahead of schedule, but it’s still on track to hit its targeted completion date of July 2014, said Lew Feldman, a South Lake Tahoe attorney involved with the project.

“Had we had a brutal winter, it might have delayed the project,” he said. “But the risk seems to be behind us.”

South Lake Tahoe received its first snow in awhile Thursday evening.

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