By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
In between Groundhog’s Day and April Fool’s Day comes this update: a major construction project involving Chemawa Road in Keizer has been delayed.
Previously, the Chemawa Road Reconstruction Project from River Road to Keizer Rapids Park was delayed multiple times before finally being completed late last year.
Now, it’s the roundabout at Chemawa and Verda Lane being delayed yet again.
The roundabout was originally going to be constructed last summer. That timeline was pushed back until this summer, but last week got pushed back another year.
Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, announced the news via a faxed press release Friday evening, Feb. 27. The release was not posted on social media by the city. The issue was not brought up at Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting.
Lawyer said the decision was jointly made between project leaders with the Oregon Department of Transportation, the city and the project’s consultant. The bid opening date is now Nov. 19.
“Officially it changed the end of the week last week,” Lawyer told the Keizertimes on Monday. “There have been concerns about keeping the project timeline. We’ve been working hard to stay on the schedule. It just became very clear the original schedule, while it may have been possible, was becoming more and more unrealistic.”
Prior to the delay, the most recent schedule had called for bids for the approximately $2 million project to be opened on May 21, with construction starting in early July and being completed in about three months.
In light of the most recent delay, Lawyer said the hope is to get the project started sometime next spring.
“The goal is to have it done by the time school starts,” he said. “Construction next year will most likely begin in June but we are a little early in refining the start date right now.”
In January, a date change for an Intergovernmental Agreement for ODOT’s property acquisition for right-of-way acquisition and transfer to the city pushed the date back from the end of that month to the end of 2017. Despite that change, Lawyer said in February the project was still on track for this year.
“They are looking at September or early October for the project to be complete,” Lawyer said at the time.
Lawyer said on Monday more meetings led to the decision for the delay.
“Things have changed for this project,” he said. “The team diligently worked to keep the project on schedule for construction this summer and as of three weeks ago the team thought that would be realistic.”
Lawyer said there are some positives to the delay. For one, bids in the late fall/early winter are usually lower than prior to the construction season. The additional time will also allow utilities to be relocated as needed. There is also the issue of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which begins March 1 each year and mandates nesting birds found in a work zone not be disturbed.
Thus, trees that would need to come down for the roundabout – Lawyer estimated four large fir trees would be impacted – could not be taken down until after nesting season. The federal law must be followed on any project using federal funds, such as this one.
“This wasn’t widely publicized,” Lawyer said of the federal law. “It was discussed for delaying the (Chemawa Road Reconstruction Project) contract. We couldn’t get on the road until we could get the right-of-way. The trees came out like Feb. 29. It was that close. We all knew it wasn’t going to be possible to keep it on this year’s project.”
Lawyer said none of the factors were necessarily more important than the others.
“It was a combination of factors,” he said. “It wasn’t any one thing that jumped out. If you reverse engineer them, those were some of the downsides to getting it done this year.”
Lawyer said there should be no need to wonder if another delay will happen.
“I don’t see that at all,” he said. “We have to stay on schedule. We have to have the right-of-way closed by September to keep this on schedule.”
The roundabout topic typically draws quite a bit of reaction in Keizer. Last week’s Keizertimes web poll, posted on the paper’s Facebook page each Thursday, reached more than 1,400 people and had 26 comments online, on top of the actual poll results. A story on the topic last month had more than 30 comments online.
According to Lawyer, project plans such as the roundabout are developed in stages, working through an ODOT process. The Plan Specification and Estimates has to be turned in several weeks before the bid date.
“They are close to turning that in,” Lawyer said of the project consultants. “The design is basically done.”