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Surface work will delay summer traffic

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Call it a pilot project of another kind.

For the first time, California Department of Transportation roadwork crews will be using a special oil-emulsion layer that’s billed as a “hard as nails” sealant on the surface of Highway 50.

“Any way we can extend the life, particularly in an environmentally sensitive area like Tahoe, we’re going to do it,” Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger said Thursday.

As part of the project spanning El Dorado County, Caltrans will lay the new material during its 32-mile, $5 million overlay project starting May 13 from the Ice House Road near Placerville. The roadwork will presumably reach Pioneer Trail in Meyers by August. In the meantime, motorists will have one-way traffic control with 10- to 20-minute delays from Monday through Thursday.

The winters beat up Sierra Nevada roads. So Caltrans hopes this new material that serves as a glue sandwiching the existing pavement and the 5 inches of new asphalt will make the South Shore’s primary thoroughfare resistent to damage.

“Noba chip,” developed by a French company, was laid on roads in Texas, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where the potholes sometimes exceed the size of small cars.

If the bonding layer appears to make Highway 50 hold up to the elements, Caltrans will use it on state routes 28 and 89.

No other work crew is more familiar with winter’s wrath on Tahoe’s roads than El Dorado County’s.

“The roads up here take a lot of abuse,” said Tom Halverson, Tahoe’s highway superintendent.

And roadwork isn’t cheap. Asphalt resurfacing can dent the county’s $9.4 million maintenance budget by $180,000 per mile, while chip seal can run $24,000.

County staff will place a proposed roadwork list before the supervisors next month that focuses on the North Upper Truckee Road area in Tahoe and Salmon Falls and Green Valley roads on the west slope. The 5-mile overlay on Lake Tahoe Boulevard extends from the city limits to Grizzly Mountain Drive.

The cost of the overlay jobs amounts to $1.4 million, which comes out of Measure H funds. The initiative, which passed two years ago, allocates half of county vehicle licensing fees to road repair. Before its passage, the fees were placed into the county’s general fund.

In addition to the overlay job, the county also wants to blanket the surrounding roads with chip seal. The 17 miles of roadwork include Tehama Drive, Seneca Drive, Cayuga Street, Little Bear Lane and Shoshone Street. The funding for this will come out of the county maintenance budget.

The city of South Lake Tahoe will also start work this summer on its $600,000 overlay budget, with much of the focus placed on a resurfacing project on Tahoe Keys Boulevard.

City street superintendent Scott Rogers said the Keys’ geology presents special challenges work crews contend with, primarily because it was laid on a marshy meadow that fragments and cracks asphalt.

“It’s like trying to build something brittle on a waterbed,” Rogers said.

The South Tahoe Public Utilities District started its waterline replacement project on Highway 50 between Winnemucca and Reno avenues. The work, which is meant to replace a deteriorated 8-inch line with a 14-inch one, should be completed by June 28. Thereafter, the crew will move the job to Winnemucca and Barton avenues through mid August.

— Susan Wood can be reached at 530-542-8009 or at swood@swiftnews.com.


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