Gearing up for Phase 4

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Officials get ready for more work on Diamond Drive

By Carol A. Clark

Phase 3 of the Diamond Drive reconstruction project is winding down and Tuesday evening county officials focused their attention on the fourth and final phase – likely to be the most disruptive of all.

“There won’t be an individual who travels these roads who won’t be touched by this project – This is going to be a real challenge,” County Administrator Tony Mortillaro advised county council members.

Diamond Drive is the only north/south arterial road that connects the town’s different mesa tops.

The reconstruction of this roadway has caused significant traffic congestion that will only get worse as Phase 4 construction is accomplished, he said.

“Staff had considered splitting the project into an additional phase, but is recommending Phase 4 be bid as one contract that will be constructed over two construction seasons. This will reduce the start-up time in the second construction season and help ensure that all of the work is completed before temperatures become too cold,” Mortillaro said.

Public Works Director Kyle

Zimmerman and Deputy Utilities Manager James Alarid conducted a Phase 4 PowerPoint presentation during Tuesday’s county council meeting held in council chambers at the Community Building on 20th Street.

The presentation detailed the scope of the project, which encompasses the North Road intersection to the Los Alamos Canyon Bridge.

County Councilor Robert Gibson has been a vocal critic of the management of the Diamond Drive project and held little back Tuesday.

He told county staff that the project was initially supposed to take three years.

“Is it your view that the original schedule was greatly underestimated … I’m trying to figure out where our root problems are or do we even understand them?” Gibson asked. “You need to look at these projects and find out why we’re not getting them done … I think one thing is we’re not holding contractors accountable and that gets around … .”

Mortillaro explained that Phase 1 came in under budget, Phase 2 was completed within budget and Phase 3 also came in within budget except for the utilities portion.

Gibson doesn’t see it that way and continued questioning the management plan for Phase 4.

“What I’m trying to figure out is what are we doing differently on the remainder of this project to make us believe things will go differently,” Gibson insisted.

He also expressed concern with the fact that major construction work is going on at Los Alamos High School that could have a major impact on traffic with additional construction trucks and equipment on Diamond Drive at the same time.

Mortillaro responded, “I’ve never met a perfect contractor, I’ve never met a perfect construction project, in fact, I’ve never met a perfect person … So, I can’t say there won’t be problems come up.”

He added that on Phase 4 the county is including milestones with completion dates for the contractor along with incentives and penalties for achieving those milestones.

Once the project is completed, a major backbone of the community’s infrastructure will have been rebuilt, he said, adding that all of the utilities will be new and the road should not need reconstruction for the next 25 or more years.

The county intends to go out for Phase 4 bids in January and begin construction on the project in April.