First Avenue delays continue

This year’s scheduled completion of the First Avenue-Motorways project is now in doubt. The deadline might have to be pushed to spring 2007,…

This year’s scheduled completion of the First Avenue-Motorways project is now in doubt.

The deadline might have to be pushed to spring 2007, says the project’s engineering firm.

“It’s possible, if things go slow, we might not finish everything on First Avenue this year,” said Rick Savage of Quest Engineering Group Inc.

“A reasonable restart date would probably be about May 1st next year,” he said.

Workers have been laying the groundwork for a future mixed commercial-residential addition to the city since May.

Funding complications and worker shortages have made a scheduled fall completion increasingly unlikely.

Continuing construction in 2007 would be an inconvenience for the community more than anything, says city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

“If we don’t finish the paving before freezing then we know that we’re going to spend the spring with mud and dirt and all the rest of it,” he said yesterday.

But there could also be economic consequences for the city as construction materials will likely be higher next year, added Shewfelt.

“The way prices of everything are going, it is an issue,” he said.

“They’re going up by the month now.”

Asphalt oil prices have increased by 65 per cent since last year, according to Skookum Asphalt Ltd. operations manager Darrell Irwin.

“Last year, the price of asphalt oil was $500 a metric tonne delivered to Whitehorse,” he said.

“We just bid on a highway job yesterday and the oil price quoted to me for next month was $825.”

Crude oil is a hot commodity due to a booming economy in Alberta and BC, and there isn’t much asphalt product out there because “everybody is paving like crazy,” said Irwin.

Skookum was awarded the city’s surface works contract for $2.8 million.

The company can’t start work until all underground sewage, water and electricity work is done in the Motorways area from Ogilvie to Strickland streets.

If construction goes into next year and material prices are higher, Skookum will be asking the city for more funding.

“The change in schedule has nothing to do with me,” said Irwin.

So far, the construction delay has already cost one business.

The Miles Canyon Historic Railway Society has had to halt its Riverfront trolley service at Main Street because the work undercut the tracks.

The society lost revenue because it was forced to charge trolley riders half price.

“It has impeded our schedule,” said the society’s president Richard Jamieson. “We normally run up to Spook Creek.

“Construction was scheduled to be a couple days here and there, but they were longer than we anticipated,” he said.

The trolley finally got back on track this week.

Once all underground and surface work is finished at the Motorways, workers will start moving down towards Main Street, said Savage.

“We’re going to be proceeding basically block by block, working south from Strickland and just see how progress goes,” he said.

“Once the weather gets cold, it’s difficult to place concrete and asphalt without problems.

“We can’t go any farther with the deep utilities than what we can complete as far as the surface, because we don’t want to leave anything under construction during the winter.

“We’ll be basically working with the contractors on a week by week basis.”

Most of the site should be finished this year, said city engineering manager Wayne Tuck.

“We’re confident that everything from Jarvis towards Strickland and then to Motorways, that’s going to be done for sure,” Tuck said.

“We asked them to pick it up, so it’s my intension to try and get this thing done.”