Boulders rolled on State Street Thursday as a three-man crew used an excavator and hand shovels to sculpt the earthen bank on the south side of the street.
The work is in preparation for the retaining wall and raised sidewalk that will run along State between First and Second streets, phase one of the $4.2 million Urban Renewal project on State, Front and a portion of Oak.
Weeks after the project’s formal approval by City Council, Crestline Construction started the work with a big impact Monday and Tuesday: removing a row of maples and other foliage that overhung the sidewalk along the block. Soon the hillside was a bare earthen backdrop to State, the center of the street lined with concrete barriers and fluorescent traffic markers.
Vehicle traffic will be routed one-way between Front and Second for the next week or so, as Crestline shores up the embankment for pouring the concrete wall. (East-bound traffic on State must turn north on Second and continue east on Oak, then onto Front Street. West-bound traffic continues on State, in the north lane of traffic.)
In the coming weeks, the project will shift east to the city-owned parking lot for embankment preparations, followed by installation of a concrete retaining wall there. Sidewalk work between Front and Second will also happen later this month, with the bulk of in-street work (and the accompanying detours and interruptions) starting after Labor Day.
“They’re keeping it pretty clean,” Ben Sheppard said Thursday as he watched the embankment being carved across the street from the store he co-owns, Sheppard’s. Crews continually sweep the street as dust and debris falls from the bank. Sheppard is one of three citizen liaisons who the public can contact if they have concerns about noise, dust, and traffic congestion caused by the project. “They’re doing a really good job so far,” Sheppard said as he watched with a few of his employees and some passersby, joking that “the kids came out to watch the big trucks” as the embankment work got noisy and active starting at 7:30 a.m.
Boulders ranging from bowling ball size on up tumbled down as Ron Schultz on the excavator nudged them off the bluff like cheerios from the side of a breakfast bowl. Then, halfway along the bluff edge, the crew had a double obstacle that literally overlapped: a boulder the size of a small car hung about 15 feet above the street, and over it was a six-inch metal sewer pipe from the house above. To get the boulder loose, the crew had to first unhook the pipe to avoid damaging it. Supervisor Ken Keith and Rick Akins hooked a stout chain from the backhoe to the 12-foot section of pipe, and then disconnected it. They would reconnect it a few minutes later. A small amount of liquid dripped out as the pipe came loose, but no more. Akins stepped a few feet away and a thin but steady stream of water poured down for about five seconds.
“You were lucky that time!” called out project manager Bill Ketchum of Crestline. The home occupants had either just flushed, or gravity played out when the pipe section was removed.
The excavator then went to work, plucking a bundle of maple stumps from atop the boulder, shaking the dirt out like a gardener shakes soil from a weed, and setting the stumps down. Then, the bucket dislodged the oval boulder, twisting it from a couple of angle and grinding and tapping it three times, sending up puffs of white dust. The machine grasped the boulder like tongs holding a potato, and finally dropped the boulder onto the lower part of the bank, where it rolled onto the street.
Scored onto the boulder was a mark left by the bucket, a near-perfect letter L — for large.
The boulders will be transported for crushing at Crestline’s other Hood River project, the nearly-complete Country Club-Wine Country Ave. connection near exit 62.