What Happened to the Grapevine?

By Patric Hedlund

Many have noticed that the once smooth-as-velvet surface of an eight-mile stretch of the Grapevine northbound from Lebec is now as rough as some of Frazier Park’s dirt roads.

It was July 2009 when residents were taking zigzag detours to get on the northbound Interstate 5 during a six-week pavement resurfacing project.

The work closed the northbound Lebec and Frazier Park ramps, alternately [Need to go to Bakersfield or Parts North? Prepare to ZigZag, The Mountain Enterprise, June 26, 2009].

Caltrans said the work back in 2009 would repair worn concrete panels in the northbound slow lane due to heavy wear by big rig traffic. They also were resurfacing three adjacent lanes with rubberized asphalt.

Security Paving Company was awarded the $15.5 million pavement rehabilitation project, which was to be complete in late summer 2009.

Caltrans spokesperson Jose Camarena replied to questions last week, saying that they “did in December grind the pavement. We had mud coming up through the asphalt. To prevent pot-holing we had to grind off 8 miles of pavement. We have to wait until better weather to put down the new surface. At this time last year, some of the asphalt began lifting and our maintenance crews saw some problems.”

Camarena said the cause of the problem is being investigated, but that the project is still within warranty. “We are looking at what happened, was it the weather, the wear or materials being used? Was it a haste issue? All of this is being evaluated by traffic and material engineers.”

He said that project plans are reviewed by both local and Sacramento engineers in advance of the final design. “We have material standards that we observe.” He said an evaluation is underway.

“Warranties and establishment periods are all part of the contract. We are working with the contractor, as well as our construction and maintenance engineers.”

Exceptionally mild weather and a drop in big rig freight loads during the economic downturn make bad weather or “a spike in traffic” an unlikely cause.

“This is not our general practice. Our projects are built then they go to the care of our maintenance department,” Camarena said, adding that resurfacing will have to wait until the weather heats up. “When we place asphalt we need to have a surface temperature of 50 degrees and rising, and it has to be dry. “

This is part of the January 21, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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