Cape city manager wants to explore nighttime road construction

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Southbound traffic on Mount Auburn Road approaching William Street is restricted to one lane while asphalt paving is underway Tuesday in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Lengthy delays in construction zones like those endured Tuesday by motorists using Mount Auburn Road could be relieved in the future by pushing road work into nighttime hours, Cape Girardeau city manager Scott Meyer said.

Meyer, a former district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation's Southeast District, mentioned he wanted to explore the idea during a recent city council meeting. At the time, he was responding to the traffic congestion produced by the city project to resurface Broadway from Perry Avenue to Kingshighway.

The same sorts of delays were evident Tuesday, including lengthy waits in a southbound line of cars approaching William Street. It's too late to order contractors to work at night as they finish this summer's round of asphalt overlay projects, but it is something that should at least be an option in the future, Meyer said.

"What you allow them to do is allow them to use the whole road during the low-volume times," Meyer said. "You could never close Broadway or Mount Auburn Road during the day completely."

The city would target projects that are likely to disrupt traffic, Meyer said. Projects on low-volume roads or near residential areas would continue to be done in the daytime, he said.

Meyer worked in St. Louis for MoDOT before taking the top job at the Southeast District office. The practice of closing an entire road became routine for state contractors, who began setting up night crews to keep labor costs low.

One concern, he said, was that contractors would increase their prices, making it difficult to complete projects within the allotted amount, Meyer said. In most instances, that didn't occur, he said.

"We were reluctant going in," Meyer said. "I remember specifically thinking that the surcharge if you were going to have night work would be steep. We didn't find that."

A MoDOT contractor recently finished putting a new surface on William Street by working at night. The Broadway resurfacing, part of the city's annual asphalt overlay program, was done during daylight hours.

Meyer suggested the time spent on asphalting Broadway could have been cut by at least two days if the contractor was working only at night.

MoDOT isn't just trying to finish projects quickly by doing the work at night, said Barry Horst, district design engineer. A decision on night work is more about how disruptive a particular project will be to motorists rather than a speedy completion date, he said.

Roads that are targeted for night work are those within cities that are not close to residential areas, he said. And the costs aren't noticeably different for day work or night work, Horst said.

Contractors have some more costs "but they can get some more production because they don't have to deal with traffic," Horst said.

About 5 percent of MoDOT's projects are night work jobs, Horst said. Contracts for those projects generally allow night work as an option, but a few require it.

For the city, night work jobs would be limited to areas where the noise or other annoyances from the job wouldn't affect residential areas, Meyer said. Exactly what policies would be set for deciding which projects to schedule at night will be developed before the 2010 overlay program is sent out for bids, Meyer said.

"Frankly, we haven't come up with a strategy yet," Meyer said.

A project like Broadway would require night work, he said. "In a different venue, with different amounts of traffic, we may ask contractors to give us two bids and let us choose."

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

150 S. Mount Auburn Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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