Former tow truck driver Elmer Christman is well acquainted with the Silver Valley stretch of Interstate 90.
“It just hammers you to death,” he said. “And it just keeps getting worse.”
Some help is on the way.
The Idaho Department of Transportation will soon begin smoothing a six-mile stretch of freeway between Pinehurst and Kellogg. Cost: $972,000.
Workers will fill in the sagging areas, then pour a two-inch coating of “plant mix” - gravel and asphalt. The contractor has set up a rock-crushing plant near Pinehurst.
The bumps there are caused primarily by washed out areas under the roadway or settling from fill that wasn’t fully compacted, said ITD resident engineer Dave Fields.
To avoid delaying heavy Fourth of July traffic, work won’t begin until July 8. The project will be done around July 30.
“We won’t be stopping traffic; we’ll just funnel them into one lane,” said Fields.
The work won’t fix the worst stretch of bumpy Silver Valley freeway, however.
The area near Osburn, paved with concrete slabs, is so bumpy that drivers commonly drive in the passing lane to avoid the pounding on their cars’ suspensions.
“The old concrete, you can feel every joint,” said Christman, who used to own Gold Rush Towing in Osburn. “Boom, boom, boom - it doesn’t make any difference whether you’re driving 70 or 30.”
That stretch is slated to be fixed next year, said Fields. Workers will take a guillotine-like machine to the concrete, cracking it and rolling it smooth. Then they’ll cover it with asphalt and gravel.
“It should get rid of the complaints that we’ve been getting a lot of lately,” said Fields, who said he also drives in the passing lane to avoid the bumps.
The problem with the seven-mile Osburn stretch is that water seeped under the joints in the concrete and eroded the fill. Traffic on the concrete “pumps” the water, speeding up the erosion.
“Water’s the biggest enemy of building roads,” he said.
Several years ago, workers tried to fill the underlying areas, but most of that material is now gone, said Fields.
Fixing the concrete bumps will cost $1.7 million - considerably more than this year’s overlay. Christman said it’s about time the state tried to do something about the bumpy freeway.
“A lot of people remark about it,” he said. “All I can say is ‘That’s the way it is.”’
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of area