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Rimrock construction

Cars travel down Rimrock Road at 58th Street West on Tuesday, shortly before Rimrock Road was reopened.

City Engineer Debi Meling has mostly good news for West End motorists weary of construction delays and detours: Most of the rough sledding is coming to an end.

The project with the most recent impact — a contractor tying in to water and sewer lines for a new subdivision along Rimrock Road at 58th Street West, which involved a detour for motorists down 62nd Street West to Grand Avenue — came to an end mid-afternoon Tuesday with the reopening of Rimrock Road.

That work was supposed to be completed last week, but rain-swelled groundwater close to the surface made excavation difficult.

“It looked like pancake batter,” Meling said of the underground soup. “They were hauling a lot of mud out. It was tough, tough construction.”

The project was without a flagger Sept. 3, the first day of work. From that day on, a flagger — stationed at the corner of 62nd Street West and Grand Avenue — helped traffic to flow more smoothly through the detour, Meling said.

A message board announced the planned work along Rimrock Road a week before it began. Construction workers were at the job site all weekend, she said, in an unsuccessful bid to complete the work before Monday’s commute.

“There is no good time to do construction on a road like Rimrock,” she said. “When you take traffic off Rimrock and put it somewhere else, it won’t be pretty.”

Nighttime construction was considered, but discarded because there’s no way to protect the excavators once it's dark.

“It will all be a memory after (reopening) — a bad memory,” Meling said.

Heavy springtime rain saturated the soil throughout town and led to late starts on a number of construction projects, including Central Avenue and Midland Road improvements.

The Central Avenue work, which runs from Shiloh Road to 32nd Street West, opened to traffic Monday, “which is great,” Meling said. The work, which includes installing two roundabouts, is expected to be completed by October.

“The businesses there (along Central Avenue) could use people starting to go back in there,” Meling said, adding drivers should “continue to go slow and watch out.”

Work on nearby South 24th Street West is also coming to a close, she said. What’s slowed that project is concrete — rather than asphalt — being poured in around valves and manhole covers. The concrete takes longer to cure than asphalt.

“It’s a better way to build streets, but it’s painful,” she said.

The good news is that only six or seven concrete installations remain, down from the “hundreds we had when we started,” Meling said. Most of the work along South 24th Street West was completed after dark.

Midland Road is also open to motorists. The project, scheduled for October completion, is both on schedule and on budget, Meling said.

Meling said frustrated commuters have for the most part been polite when they call the Engineering Division.

“We don’t get a ton of calls. We do get some calls, and a lot of (the callers) are very helpful,” she said. Residents tell traffic engineers that cones have been knocked down, or a roadblock sign is on the wrong side of the road.

“It may not seem like it, but things move fast during construction season, so those calls are helpful,” she said.

Zimmerman Trial remains closed for several Montana Department of Transportation projects.

The Montana Department of Transportation projects include building a single-lane roundabout at the intersection of Highway 3 and Zimmerman Trail; constructing a pedestrian tunnel under Zimmerman Trail for a future pedestrian path; installing drainage, lighting, curbing and signage; and relocating utilities in the intersection area.

The road closed more than two weeks early when a large crack was discovered in the pavement.

The road is not expected to reopen until November when the projects have been completed. 

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.