On Monday, work will resume on the Perizzite and Chavez streets project in Belen. For three weeks, the heavy equipment has sat idle while the U.S. Corps of Engineers resolved a problem with the roadbed.
“The soil in that area is mostly clay. That has been one of the biggest problems on this project. It was why the road, curbs and gutters had gotten so bad,” said Fred Sanchez, Belen’s utility director.
“Clay shifts with the weight of the traffic on it, which tears up the road. Also, when the water table is as shallow as it is in that area, the compression on the clay causes water to be drawn up into it, which causes it to expand.”
When the Corps of Engineers designed the road project, the engineers took samples of the roadbed, and the test indicated the soil would compact correctly.
“But when they started to excavate the roadbed, they discovered there was a high level of clay,” Sanchez said. “The compression tests proved that they would have to remove the clay.”
The contractor, Vizcon, removed two feet of clay before work stopped on the project.
“They were going to use limestone rocks, but it didn’t work,” Sanchez said. “It didn’t compact properly.”
Vizcon had to hire a soil specialist to determine what mix of soil would compact correctly.
“Once they figured out what material to use, the contractor then had to file a change order and have it approved by the Corps of Engineers. This all took time,” Sanchez said.
Another problem occurred because, when the engineers decided to remove two feet of roadbed, the natural gas lines had to be lowered. Besides re-laying the gas line, which caused another work order, the lines had to be lowered going from the main line to the homes along the street.
“This project is like many we have in this town,” Sanchez said. “We run into difficulty from things like water table level, soil type, contaminated soil. It’s all part of the job.
“We had expected the water table to be a problem, and we would have to de-water the roadbed. But, because it has been so dry, the water table wasn’t an issue.”
City Manager Sally Garley said while the change orders caused the cost of the project to increase, it will still be completed. “We know going into projects that things happen. We have funds available for such things.”
While this project is funded, designed and managed by the Corps of Engineers, Belen is responsible for 25 percent of the costs.
“We are sorry the project has taken so long,” Garley said. “I know it has been an inconvenience for the people living on Perizzite and Chavez. But we wanted to do the job correctly.”
“Hopefully, this will be the last delay for the Perizzite-Chavez project, and it will be done in four weeks, weather permitting,” Sanchez said.