Celebrating the people who keep us moving

Editor's note: On the heels of National Public Works Week last week, Street Smarts wishes to keep the love flowing by paying homage to public works crews who work hard to keep us on the move with an update on two multi-million dollar projects that aim to improve access between Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. Today's column updates the progress on the $18 million drainage improvement project on Highway 17 in Santa Clara County. On Thursday, learn the latest progress report on the Highway 1 Soquel-Morrissey auxiliary lanes project. The Highway 17 drainage project is more than half way done. Pavex, the Caltrans contractor assigned to the Highway 17 project, has been working overnight since last spring to install new drainage systems under and around the highway that opened in 1940, build a retaining wall at Big Moody Curve and replace the median divide and the outside metal guard rail before adding a smooth layer of pavement. This month, crews began paving from the Summit to Idylwild, said Eli Mowbray, Pavex project manager. The work involves lane closures with crossover traffic, as well as a large number of trucks on the road and brief traffic stoppages, he said. “If you can pass along the message for drivers to be patient and slow down through the work zone that would be much appreciated,” said Mowbray. “(Recently), an impaired driver blew right by our flagman and proceeded down the closed lanes. Thankfully, he stopped just before hitting our paving crew. This allowed the CHP officer stationed on site to catch up with him.” Paving should wrap up by the end of this month and the road work, including signage and road markings, should be complete by mid-June, he said. While the roadwork may be done, the nighttime project will continue, as some of the 102 drainage systems to be replaced are tricky to get to, Mowbray said. “A number of large pipes cross under Highway 17 and they have been in place since the highway was constructed over 50 years ago,” he said. “These pipes have corroded with age and need to be repaired or replaced. But they are so deep under the highway – sometimes over 60 feet down – we cannot excavate them and replace them in the typical fashion.” Since Pavex can't dig out the 18 drainage systems in question, crews will instead perform a technique called, “pipe lining,” Mowbray explained. This trenchless method entails slipping a new, slightly smaller pipe into the old degraded pipe. The deteriorated pipes range in size from 18-36 inches in diameter and range in length from 30-450 feet. “And they are steep, with one at an incline of 35 percent,” Mowbray added.
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