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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Prepare to merge

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Traffic merges into the right lane on U.S. Highway 71 in north Spencer. Lane restrictions are expected through October, as the Iowa Department of Transportation completes a concrete overlay on the popular stretch between Spencer and Milford that has not been resurfaced for more than 20 years.
(Photo by Gabe Licht)
When several state construction projects came in under budget, a concrete overlay of U.S. Highway 71 between Spencer and Milford moved up the Iowa Department of Transportation's priority list.

Manatts Construction Company, of Brooklyn, will complete the nearly $4.8 million project over the next five months.

Tony Babcock, an IDOT resident construction engineer, explained the project's late start.

"The bid letting was in April," Babcock said. "There were extra funds because other projects came in under budget, so this project got pushed up to an April bid letting. ... It's a high-profile project with a lot of traffic heading to the Lakes. Honestly, most contractors don't anticipate getting started until the first of May. We're about a month behind that, but we'll still get it done this year."

While the 12-mile stretch is under construction, lane restrictions will be in effect.

"Right now, they've got traffic down to one lane each direction," Babcock said Friday afternoon. "They're getting ready to put traffic head-to-head on the northbound lane for a couple days next week. They're putting traffic on northbound lanes to get the southbound lanes ready for long-term, head-to-head traffic."

While the routing changes may seem confusing, they are necessary in order to put up special devices that cannot be put up in regular traffic, Babcock said.

Surveying will precede milling of the southbound lanes, which is expected to take much of June. July will be used for paving, with a goal of starting work on southbound lanes by August.

New stringless technology, which has only been used on one previous state project in northwest Iowa, will be used to result in a better, more cost-efficient product, Babcock added.

Access to paved roads will not be restricted, though every other gravel road will be closed to cross traffic.

"They might have to go around the section to get to those roads," Babcock said, "but all the paved, county highways will be open both ways."

Restriction of business access is not expected. If restrictions occur, they will be brief, Babcock said.

He noted the life expectancy of the new project to be between 20 and 30 years, potentially exceeding its current age.

"There's never really been an overlay on it," Babcock said. "It was built 23 or 24 years ago and we haven't done much more than maintenance on it since then."

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