Motorists should expect a kinder, gentler ride on Egan Drive and other roads after the state finishes laying down about 50,000 tons of asphalt using a laser-guided computer that can measure smoothness of pavement to one-tenth of an inch.
More than 90 percent of the paving is done for the $5.6 million areawide project that started last summer, said Gary Hayden, Southeast director of construction and maintenance for the state Department of Transportation.
"We did some innovative things," Hayden said. "The contractor did a really good job in a short time frame."
Secon, an associate of Juneau Asphalt, completed four lanes of an eight-mile stretch along Egan and four blocks along Ninth and 10th streets before shutting down its paving operation in mid-September.
The contractor also added a merging lane for southbound traffic entering Egan from Channel Drive . That replaced a recently closed entrance to Egan across Channel Drive from the DIPAC Hatchery.
There's still some guardrail, reflector and other "dress" work to be done, and paving should resume next spring on Glacier Highway, from the Williams Express gas station through Lemon Creek to the Vanderbilt Hill Road intersection.
The contractor earned almost $100,000 in incentives by meeting tougher specifications, which call for the use of harder rock aggregate and thicker oil to create a smoother and longer-lasting pavement.
"We have a computer that measures smoothness ... with accuracy to plus or minus one-tenth of an inch," state materials engineer Bruce Burnette said. "The road is now 30 percent smoother than it was."
There were bumps and roadblocks along the way, with tar blobs sticking to cars and traffic coming to a stop during peak hours. The congestion was particularly bad for northbound vehicles on days when one lane was closed for paving.
"There was traffic backed up from Fred Meyer all the way into town," Hayden pointed out. "It showed us what it'd be like if we didn't have four lanes."
The state already is looking at other projects to address the increasing traffic in Juneau.
According to the state, drivers make an average of 30,900 trips per day on Egan, and the number is projected to increase to 31,400 in 2005.
"If our traffic continues to grow at the current rate, we'll need either additional lanes or go with grade-separated intersections (overpasses)," said state preconstruction engineer Pat Kemp.
The state has tentative plans for adding overpasses and cloverleafs. It figures it will cost $6.4 million for an overpass at 10th and Egan, and $13 million for one at Sunny Point.
"We have a variety of alternatives going to the public shortly," Kemp said.
Mike Sica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.