End in sight for Exit 14 noise

After their first night of noisy demolition work, crews were ahead of schedule in efforts to remove decaying concrete from the deck of the Interstate 5 overpass at Exit 14.

"They should be done by Saturday night if progress continues like it has been," said Dennis Steers, public service representative for the Oregon Department of Transportation Thursday. "Knock on wood, don't want to jinx anything."

The initial estimate was for the demolition work to last through Tuesday night, "so this is great news," said Steers.

The night work is necessary to lessen the impact on I-5 traffic, which is being detoured because of debris being blasted onto the freeway, said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming.

After Thursday night's work, crews planned to have finished demolishing the section of bridge above the freeway's northbound lanes, continuing to work above the southbound lanes tonight and Saturday, Steers said.

Some demolition above the freeway's western shoulder will be completed during the day on Monday, if the plan holds, said Steers.

"We did receive complaints from some concerned citizens," said Steers. "Some called the police."

The department has received proper permits from the City of Ashland to complete the night work.

A handful of guests Wednesday night staying at the Best Western Windsor Inn near the bridge complained about the noise, said Estar Travis, who worked the front desk.

Travis said one guest was moved to Best Western's Bard's Inn downtown because of the noise, but added that most are "understanding."

Across the street, at the Windmill Inn, no guests complained about the first night of demolition, said manager Jennifer Burkett. The noise could be heard from the lobby, she said.

"I'm just looking forward to them getting it done — the whole project, I mean," said Burkett. "It'll definitely be nice when it's all completed."

Sheri Anderson, who lives on Tolman Creek Road behind Albertsons, said the noise generated by the demolition equipment was loud Wednesday night, and she can feel vibrations from the equipment.

"I had to wear ear plugs in bed," she said. "It's bearable with ear plugs, but I took them out at four in the morning, and could hear it easily."

Susan Reinhardt, who lives above Siskiyou Boulevard on Tolman Creek Road, said, in an email, that she could feel the vibrations from the demolition equipment, and hear the racket throughout Wednesday night.

"The noise overnight, along with the pounding/vibration was really terrible," she wrote.

Four motors powering two hydro-blasting mills are causing most of the noise and vibrating the ground, said Leaming,

The compressors within the hydro mills blast water from a nozzle mounted on a small tractor with up to 36,000 pounds of pressure per square inch to eat through about five inches of concrete remaining on the bridge.

Steers said the high-pressured water blasting through the concrete also contributes a considerable amount of noise to the operation.

If Thursday night's work went as planned, the freeway's southbound lanes will be closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. today through Saturday, Steers said.

"Things are moving along," he said. "If nothing goes wrong, they should have it done Saturday night."

The contractor, Pennsylvania-based Rampart Hydro Services, has an extra hydro mill at the job site, in case one of the two machines in use breaks down, said Steers.

"Thanks for everyone bearing with us," he said. "The less nights we have to work, the better it is for everybody."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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