The lengthy construction project on Wollochet Drive NW is nearly complete, Pierce County Engineer Brian Stacy said this week.
Many Gig Harbor residents have been frustrated by the duration of the lane-adding project, which has taken place for about four years. Stacy said he understands the community reaction but added the project has been complicated.
“There’s two phases to this project,” he said. “The phase most people are frustrated with is Artondale (Drive NW). It’s been done in accordance with the amount of work days provided, but there’s been a lot of intricacies to this project because of the retaining walls, and a lot of sensitive things — the estuary and other things. It just took a long time to get done.”
Commuters dealt with the final major inconvenience last weekend, when contractor Miles Resources worked to reconstruct the intersection at Wollochet and Fillmore drives, and a detour was implemented.
Stacy said the only way to do the final grading and paving was to close a couple of legs.
He added that the project has run longer than expected because of the difficulty of all the utility companies that needed to move resources, and trying to coordinate their efforts with the contractor.
Stacy said they pushed the utilities to move as quickly as they could.
“Utility coordination was significant,” he said, referring to Peninsula Light Company, Comcast and others. “There are a lot of utilities out there. They’re all under franchise with the county, and they’re all obligated to move their utilities — at their cost.
“We pushed and prodded as much as we reasonably could,” Stacy said. “We all have good working relationships. If they tell us it takes 40 days, I’m not in a position to say it takes 30 days.”
In retrospect, Stacy said Pierce County could have done some things to speed up the process, but he added there are risks with any decision.
“If you’re looking for an area where perhaps we could’ve saved some time, we may have been able to overlap some work,” Stacy said. “Tucci or Miles (the contractors) will shut down, and the utilities will come in. We could’ve had multiple contractors in at the same time, but with that comes risk. The utility can submit claims if they feel they’re interrupted. All you have to do is get sideways with one of those contractors, and the financial implications can be steep on taxpayers. It gets very complicated.”
Some residents suggested night work or double-shifting could have sped up the process. Pierce County used that method when it could, but Stacy said they have to be cognizant of noise levels and not disrupt people trying to sleep in residential areas.
“We paved a lot overnight, but we’ve got to be conscientious of noise ordinances,” Stacy said. “We’ve got to be respectful of people’s property rights and people who just want to sleep.
“I got phone calls from the vibrations shaking people’s houses,” he added. “It’s really a fine line, so we’re trying to make those decisions very strategically. What can we do to get in after the commute hours? We did do that several times. It’s a good thing to do; we reserve the right to do it when it makes sense.”
Both phases of the project are expected to be complete sometime in October.Reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.