PALMER — Glenn Highway widening Project Engineer Todd Smith presented to the Palmer City Council on Tuesday prior to their regularly scheduled meeting to give the council an update on the price, features and schedule of the construction.
This week, Quality Asphalt Paving, which was awarded the $36 million contract for construction, will be removing asphalt from intersections at the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, Bogard Road and Dogwood Avenue in Palmer. The project began last fall with utility relocation from GCI, MTA, MEA, and Enstar. Smith alerted companies on Tuesday that the contractors were ready for additional utility relocation. Construction came to a halt for last weekend’s busy Memorial Day holiday. Smith plans to halt construction again for Independence Day weekend, and again cease operations during the Alaska State Fair in August.
“This summer is the summer of the heavy civil construction,” Smith said. “We are hopeful to be able to put traffic on the bottom lift pavement of this finished design with operational traffic signals before the snow flies.”
Smith said that the project is scheduled to be completed by July 31. Smith hopes to be able to have utilities moved and construction complete on Phase 1 prior to Independence Day so that contractors can begin working on Phase 2. The four-lane divided highway will stretch from just south of Scott Road on the Glenn Highway to Outer Springer Loop. The project will reconstruct existing traffic lights at Bogard Road, Dogwood Avenue and the Palmer-Wasilla Highway as well as adding additional traffic signals at the intersections of the Glenn Highway and South Inner Springer Loop, East Inner Springer Loop and Colony Way. A fourth new traffic signal will be constructed at the intersection of Evergreen Avenue and Cobb Street. Each of the large steel pilings placed at intersections will be placed 40 feet in the ground to provide a base for the traffic signals. Smith said that contractors have had difficulty placing the pilings on bedrock. The new traffic signals will not employ older ‘loop detection’ technology that had frustrated some motorcycle riders who were not recognized by the light. New radar technology not only recognizes the presence of a person but also the speed at which they travel.
“It’s kind of the next step in vehicle detection and trying to make our traffic signals work more efficient,” Smith said.
Smith said that the wires that have been used since the start of construction to place traffic lights on has worked well. The new radar technology was used over the winter and Smith received compliments from residents on the efficiency of the traffic lights. The temporary wires that hold lights have also allowed for contractors to move swiftly from one traffic pattern to the other as necessary, simply sliding the light across lanes to match new traffic patterns. Smith said that the wires are not permanent, and that traditional pole and steel mast light structures will be put in once the project is complete. The poles and steel masts are safe up to wind speeds of 130 miles per hour. Speed limits will remain the same, transitioning from 55 mph to 45 mph at Inner Springer Loop and bumping back up to 55 north of Palmer up Bailey Hill. Existing bike paths will be rebuilt to match the widened road upon project completion. Smith said that two-lane roads reach their maximum capacity at 12,000 cars per day. Data collected last year shows 20,000 cars per day, and Smith said that the new four-lane divided highway is not being built to match that number but exceed it.
“This project is being constructed for the traffic that’s already here and the traffic to come,” Smith said.