Its been a long road for the Pendleton construction project, which transformed one of Joint Base Lewis-McChords primary thoroughfares from an avenue to a boulevard.
Drivers on the installation were finally able to drive down the main stretch of Pendleton Boulevard Nov. 22 for the first time in the two years since the project started in 2011.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the opening and JBLM commander Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. waved a line of cars through the newly opened road with a green flag.
The project is a major step in the installation master plan to improve the infrastructure and facilitate smoother movement of cars and people on the base.
This truly gives us that main arterial that we needed to bisect the main part of Lewis Main and hopefully entices folks to stay off I-5, Hodges said. One of the boulevards first commuters was Jean Heciomovich, chief of the master planning division in the JBLM Directorate of Public Works. She was excited that the road was finally open to the public.
Theres been a lot of years that have gone into planning this, Heciomovich said.
The construction project was expected to begin in summer 2011, but there were delays to accomodate nearby construction projects including replacement of underground utilities and recovery from a January 2012 storm that all but shut down the installation.
Construction officially began June 2012, starting at 2nd Division Drive from Pendleton to Bennett Avenue, before moving on to 3rd Division Drive, the remaining half of Pendleton and the intersections near the Gray Army Airfield.
During the first two phases of the project, the group tried to minimize the traffic impact by doing construction in segments because of the density of businesses in the area.
We did most of the work we could possibly do down there until we absolutely had to shut things off so that we could finish the tie-in, said Jonathan Norquist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager.
Construction in May closed parts of Pendleton from the intersection at 3rd Division Drive toward South Division Street. This section was changed from a two-lane avenue into four lanes with a landscaped divider planted with trees on both sides of the boulevard.
New lanes along the side of Pendleton Boulevard provide added parking for patrons of Lewis Main businesses like the commissary, banks and restaurants. Cars now drive through the red brick lanes and park along the curb in the gray brick areas.
The lanes also provide an environmentally friendly irrigation system that eliminates the need of storm drains along the road.
These (paver bricks) are all self-contained permeable pavers that allow water to permeate into the soil beneath the parking lane, said Dan Paradis, quality control manager for Bristol Engineering Services.
Though contractors were efficient in their work, Norquist said, they had to overcome about 250 hiccups along the way. Most of the issues were underground utilities that hadnt been recorded and were therefore not taken into account in the initial planning, requiring major plan redesigns.
We had to pull the road up, literally, Norquist said. We had to build the road three feet higher in some places because of the underground telecom. But Norquist said drivers wouldnt notice those rises because contractors feathered out the rise throughout the entire project.
Other issues included bad dirt, underground oil storage tanks and even vintage 1910 wooden water pipes. Overall, the issues led to 117 project modifications, forcing amendments to drawings, utility layouts and road designs.
Despite the challenges, the construction is nearly complete. Contractors have until Dec. 6 to finish landscaping. Norquist said weather wouldnt stop smaller follow-on projects since it rarely freezes in Washington.
We were thinking we were going to get into weather and wait until spring to finish (construction), Norquist said. (Contractors) were good about getting everything ready to place concrete and asphalt before the weather.
Signs will also be added on Pendleton from 41st Division Drive to 8th Street restricting all tactical military vehicles from using that section of the road, to minimize wear on the new road from wearing.