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Freeway work chipping off drivers

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A $3.9 million project to resurface a 2-mile stretch of Interstate 80 through Auburn has turned into a mini business bonanza for the people who replace auto windshields. A Caltrans contractor has been on the job overnight weekdays for most of the past month grinding pavement and attempting to sweep up the debris that results. But despite efforts to keep the rocks from flying during the daytime – when the roadwork ceases and traffic ramps up – the chips and cracks from I-80 debris have created a spike in Auburn’s auto glass replacement economy. Tom Bourne was one of the unlucky ones, when his son drove one of the two ground-down lanes between Elm Avenue and Russell Road. He ended up with four “star” impact marks on the front window of his car. That’s a $194 bill that Bourne said his insurance doesn’t cover and he’s hoping someone else will be able to pay for. At the minimum, Caltrans needs to employ more sweepers to pick up the debris, he said. “Cars are going 60 mph and the impact of a rock on a windshield is pretty intense,” Bourne said. “If the rocks are staying on the road, it’s a recipe for disaster.” John Gimroth, owner of Reliable Auto Glass in Auburn, said his Highway 49 business has definitely seen an increase in window replacement work over the past couple of weeks. People coming in with their cracked windshields are saying that it’s from driving through the resurfacing project, he said. “They haven’t been too happy,” Gimroth said. “It’s been bad – but good for our business.” Mark Dinger, Caltrans spokesman, said Wednesday that the project in Auburn includes two sweepers at night and one during the daytime. The second sweeper was brought in because of the high volume of traffic on I-80, he said. There have been no cutbacks on how Caltrans or the contractor handles the debris from the project, he said. “We can’t cut back on something like this,” Dinger said. “It’s impossible to catch it all. It’s the nature of the business and we do the best we can.” On the plus side for drivers, the grinding was completed on the roadway Wednesday night and a fresh layer of asphalt will be finished this week, Dinger said. The contractor – Chico’s Knife River Construction – will return in late September to add a top layer of open-grained concrete for better traction and drainage. Dinger said Knife River is a large company that has done good work on several similar jobs for Caltrans. Rene Vercruyssen, Knife River general manager, said that anyone who believes their vehicle has been damaged as a result of work on the project can call the business. “We’ll process their claim,” Vercruyssen said. “The good news is the issue should be behind us. If unfortunately someone has been damaged, Knife River Construction will stand behind and remedy any issues caused by our work.” The Knife River phone number is (530) 891-6555.