Diamond Drive Phase 3 work begins Wednesday

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By Jennifer Garcia

Starting next week, those who use Diamond Drive will again see a familiar site as construction equipment begins to get moved into the area.

RMCI, Inc., the contractor who will work on Diamond Drive Phase 3 will begin moving equipment on Monday. However, the actual work will not begin until Wednesday.

The contractor will begin setting up traffic control on Tuesday. This means that traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction on Diamond from the Sandia/Orange intersection to Arkansas/38th Street. All traffic will be shifted to the east side of Diamond.

In addition, the sidewalk on the west side of Diamond from north of Ridgeway to the steps of Mountain School will be closed. As a result of this closure, pedestrians are encouraged to use the sidewalk on the east side of Diamond.

There will also be no access from Diamond to Ridgeway, as this portion of the road will be closed. Motorists are encouraged to use Sandia as an alternate route. Right turns from Ridgeway onto Diamond will be allowed, however, left turns from Ridgeway onto Diamond will not be allowed.

On Wednesday, Sycamore will be closed at Diamond for about 3-4 weeks for utility trenching. Residents who live in the Sycamore area should use North Road. The southbound Diamond/Sycamore Atomic City Transit stop will be temporarily moved to Diamond/40th Street during this closure.

Project Manager Rey Gonzales said the contractor will begin removing asphalt on the west side of the road starting Wednesday. In an effort to keep residents in the area abreast of closures, Gonzales said that fliers were sent out to those who live on both Ridgeway and Sycamore.

A pre-construction meeting with RMCI was held on April 28 and Gonzales said it went well. “We introduced our staff to the contractor and got to know the contractor’s staff,” he said. “We covered a lot of items on the contract; basically general items.” He also said that some of the items discussed included fire prevention, emergency response and communication coordination, to name a few topics.

“We also talked about traffic control with the contractor,” Gonzales said. He mentioned that RMCI’s traffic control plan has already seen some reworking and is on the second revision. “The first one was a fair stab at what we thought would work, we’re now on the second revision. We should be issuing the order to proceed today (Friday),” he said.

One of the main concerns for many residents is how traffic will be handled. Gonzales is confident that this will not be an issue. “We have stipulations that impose impact fees with a dollar amount if they delay traffic through the project,” he said. Unscheduled road closures and moving heavy equipment in driving lanes during rush hour traffic are a couple of the prohibited acts that would result in the contractor being fined.

According to Gonzales, the contractor has about 180 days in which to complete the project. “All the major work items have to be at substantial completion within 150 days,” he said. Striping will be the last item to be completed, with an estimated completion date of Oct. 13.

The project, according to Gonzales, is not going to be anything like Diamond Drive Phase 2. “Some of the things we’re doing on this project are less complicated than the previous one. There are no retaining walls and we’re working on a wider road section. There should be adequate buffer between work and traffic. They have a good traffic control plan with our revisions, both for vehicles and pedestrians. We’ll see better treatment for pedestrian traffic on this project,” he said.

Gonzales said that ideally, the project would have been started sooner. However, the county had to wait because of requirements that needed to be met in order to receive stimulus money to help fund the project.

“We’re getting about $1.9 million from the state. There are certain requirements to qualify for the stimulus package. They had to certify environmental statements for the project to make sure we’re not impacting the environment. They also had to certify the right of way. We couldn’t secure a contractor before those items were certified. So right now it looks good. We’re in good shape,” he explained.

Office hours will be held on a weekly basis to give residents a chance to ask questions or voice concerns. County staff will be at the Film Festival every Monday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. to speak with residents.

Although posted speed limits of 35 mph remain in effect throughout the work zone, motorists are urged to slow down and use extreme caution. Motorists using alternate routes are urged to obey posted speed limits. Other options include minimizing the number of vehicles on Diamond Drive by riding the Atomic City Transit, carpooling or flexing schedules when possible.

All construction sites are closed to the public. Slow down and use caution when traveling through existing work zones/construction areas. All construction is subject to weather/mechanical delays.