Diamond Drive Phase II coming into home stretch

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By Jennifer Garcia

With temperatures dropping and cool weather quickly setting in, it’s hard to ignore the fact that winter is right around the corner.

With Old Man Winter comes the usual headaches; icy roads, slush, hazardous driving conditions and a plethora of other hassles associated with the winter months.

In addition to the usual winter worries, Los Alamos residents seem to have another worry which may be affected by inclement weather: The Diamond Drive Phase II project.

Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman was in council chambers on Tuesday night to present an update on the work that crews have been doing along Diamond Drive.

Zimmerman started out by saying, “Phase two has been very challenging, doing construction through the narrow corridor. Traffic control has been a challenge and the contractor was falling behind (schedule).”

Zimmerman said that the contractor brought in additional crewmembers to help catch up because they were falling as much as six weeks behind the original schedule. He also said that after the crew was beefed up, the contractor got back on track.

The Diamond Drive Project has not been an easy one for the construction crew, county officials or residents.

Crewmembers have had to deal with the traffic along the road, while drivers have had to deal with detours, heavy traffic and rough conditions.

Los Alamos resident Patricia Max was present at Tuesday night’s meeting and addressed council regarding the conditions on Diamond Drive.

Max said that the contractor has been parking a truck in a residential area, forcing traffic to use one lane.

She said that she was nearly hit head-on, trying to exit the road, because she was forced to travel the wrong way, in an effort to get out.

She also suggested that when signs reading “road closed” are put out, they should be specific, stating which roads are closed, rather than just saying that there is a closure.

Zimmerman said that curb and gutter work is about 80 percent complete and Qwest and Comcast are cooperatively working with the county to get their underground utilities up and running as soon as possible.

Ninety percent of the utility work has been completed and the first mat of pavement has been placed on the project.

It’s estimated that the project will be completed by Oct. 27, with five weeks being allowed for corrections to punch list items.

Zimmerman is confident that the contractor will complete the work on time because if inclement weather sets in, the contractor is responsible to snow and ice removal, which can range in cost from $25,000 to $50,000.

“After completion of the punch list, the contractor is no longer responsible for snow and ice removal,” Zimmerman said.

Councilor Nona Bowman was concerned with the financial aspect of the project.

“The contingency fund is decreasing rapidly,” she said. “Due to the (nation’s) financial situation, do you think the price of asphalt will go down?” she asked Zimmerman.

He said that last year the contractor provided a price per ton for asphalt. Zimmerman also said that the county agreed to pay the increased cost of materials per ton.

He explained that the contractor would be issued payment for the asphalt, then would submit the price difference compared to last year, for which the county would issue an additional payment.

“I don’t anticipate that we’ll need more money. We have about $300,000 (in the contingency fund),” Zimmerman said.

Councilor Frances Berting asked Zimmerman if necessary, would traffic be able to run on the first layer of asphalt, without damaging the road.

“It’s a possibility, but it doesn’t have the thickness (necessary), but we could get through the winter without too much damage,” Zimmerman said. “We really want to get the second layer in there,” he said.

Councilor Jim West made it clear that construction is part of progress.

“There’s no reason to whine about the rough road. I think we’ve done well to get this much done. It’s inconvenient at times, but that’s progress,” he said.