PRESCOTT - Workers are about nine months into the massive widening project on Highway 89 between Prescott and Chino Valley, and a smooth layer of asphalt now covers stretches of the new lanes.
Arizona Department of Transportation District Engineer Alvin Stump reported this week that the first phase of the widening, which involves the construction of the new southbound lanes, is nearing completion.
This week, crews with Fann Contracting Inc. were on hand to apply and compact layers of asphalt on the new lanes.
Stump expects the paving to be done by about mid-December, when traffic will be switched from the existing lanes to the newly constructed lanes. Currently, he said the paving work is more than one-third complete.
Initially, ADOT had expected the southbound paving work to be complete by October, but Stump said the wet monsoon season interfered with those plans.
"The biggest thing was the rains during the past month and a half," Stump said. "(The contractor) couldn't do anything until it dried out."
Even so, he said, the entire widening project is still on schedule to be complete by August 2015, because the contractor took steps in the current phase to speed along the work in the coming phases.
The $17.4 million widening project got under way this past March, and is scheduled to take about a year and a half. The project was split into four phases: construction of the southbound lanes; reconstruction on the northbound side; completion of the divided highway and roundabouts; and the final paving.
The project will include two new roundabouts - one at the new Deep Well Ranch Road (near Ruger Road) and one at Kalinich, closer to Chino Valley.
Stump allows that the configuration near the Deep Well Ranch Road roundabout has caused some confusion for drivers, who have noticed a curve in the road, as well as new lanes on the east side of the highway.
"The switch-over to the east side of the highway was done because of the way it would impact the Deep Well Ranch," Stump said.
In an effort to distance the highway from the ranchland, he explained, the new lanes were positioned on the east side of the highway, rather than the west.
That move also will cause a slight curve in the highway, Stump said, although he stressed that the curve would become less noticeable once both sides of the divided highway are complete.
The new roundabout at Kalinich will tie in with a new road that the Town of Chino Valley is building at Road 1 East, Stump said.
Along with providing access for the commercial property along the new road, Stump said the Kalinich roundabout would also "provide safe U-turning for all of the businesses" in the area.
The ongoing widening between Chino Valley and Deep Well Ranch Road eventually will make way for the final widening of the Highway 89 corridor from Deep Well to the Highway 89A interchange.
The $15 million for that final project is in the ADOT budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins in the summer of 2016.
Meanwhile, the City of Prescott also is working on the design for the realignment of Willow Creek Road, which will run from the current Pioneer Parkway/Willow Creek Road intersection to the new Deep Well Ranch Road roundabout.
This past August, the Prescott City Council approved a $524,735 design contract with Dibble Engineering, Inc. to do the engineering and post-design work for the 1.6-mile realignment.
Officials hope that the Willow Creek Road realignment project will be done in time to provide an alternate north-south route during the southern section of the Highway 89 widening, which could get under way in the second half of 2016.
The city and county earlier entered an agreement to split the cost of Willow Creek realignment construction, with the county contributing $3 million, and the city paying the remaining $3 million, plus an additional $1.4 million for water infrastructure.
Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks.