Creative tactics used to prod road construction

November 19, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

It's enough to make a morning commuter do a double take.

Smack in the middle of Bestgate Road, surrounded by a ribbon of brand new blacktop, sits a line of telephone poles.

Is this moving the edge of the highway to the middle of a new construction technique? Did someone skip a step in the blueprints -- the one that says "Remove telephone poles."

County officials say not to worry, everything is under control. It's all just part of the process of widening and straightening the DTC once-harrowing thoroughfare into Annapolis.

The poles will disappear next month.

Why the unusual construction procedure?

Eventually, the utility lines will be buried. But workers for Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. and C & P Telephone found it to be a massive job and have fallen about two weeks behind schedule. They should be done by Dec. 1.

"We were having difficulty coordinating with all the utilities," explained Lisa Ritter, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Public Works.

"The coordination between this many things happening at once in a major construction project, you can imagine, is phenomenal," she said.

The contractor didn't want to hold up work while waiting for the utilities, so the base coat of asphalt was poured with the poles still upright.

"There eventually came a point where it was easier to not stop, [but] just go ahead and get it done," Ms. Ritter said. "We decided we'd just go ahead and pour around the poles, because we have to do two coats of asphalt anyway."

Once the underground lines are in place and the overhead lines removed, crews will yank the polls from the ground with a specially designed poll-puller.

The holes will be filled with concrete. "And you'll never even know those poles were there," Ms. Ritter said.

Rebuilding Bestgate Road became necessary as mushrooming development drove traffic volumes higher. The twists and turns and roller-coaster dips were fine for a country road, but not for an increasingly important artery connecting Annapolis Mall to the city's downtown area.

Even with the time-saving tactic, the $12.6 million project will miss its original deadline of mid- to late November. Several obstacles pushed back the completion date to the second week of December.

Work came to a halt when the first contractor pulled out in October 1992.

In February, a new contractor got things humming again until the spring rains literally gummed up the works. A dry summer followed, but the past two months have brought more wet weather, idling work crews.

A final, 4-inch coat of asphalt will be applied in the spring, although a mild winter could accelerate the schedule.

And for those drivers worried about manholes sticking up above the first coat of asphalt, not to worry. Crews will create a gradual rise up to the edge of the manhole, Ms. Ritter said, "so you don't come up to it and go kerplunk."

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