Thurston County News


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Meghan Porter

Bryan Dominique

Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Dealing with delays
National resource shortages impact county summer construction and maintenance

Emergency repairs to a slide area on Old Highway 99 near Tenino are delayed while contractors wait for materials to complete the project.

Supply chain delays and materials shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic are impacting construction projects and maintenance programs this summer.

"Anything that has metal, certain plastics, paint pigment, or computer chips has been impacted as well as a variety of other (material) components," said County Engineer Scott Lindblom in a June briefing to the Thurston Board of County Commissioners.

State, county and city agencies across the region are feeling the impacts, and reprioritizing summer project schedules based on materials availability, budgets, timing and need.

Thurston County Public Works projects with precast concrete structures and piles slated for completion this summer, including the Fish Passage Program project on Latigo Street SE at Spurgeon Creek and Gate Road, and emergency slide repairs on Old Highway 99's Chein Hill, are experiencing delays.

Contractors placing pilings along Latigo Street SE at Spurgeon Creek. The culvert replacement project is one of several scheduled this summer experiencing delays as a result of nationwide materials shortages.

The Deschutes Falls Park Walkway and Viewpoint Improvements project and the Yelm/Meridian Intersection project, previously scheduled for summer construction, will now be completed in the fall. Vail Road Improvements, scheduled for completion this fall, are now expected to carry over into Spring 2022. A Burfoot Park Restroom Replacement project may also be moved to next year, depending upon materials availability.

"The uncertainties faced during the pandemic for owners, agencies, contractors and suppliers/manufacturers paired with a continued shortage in trucking created a perfect storm to break many links in the supply chain," said Construction Engineering and Support Manager Steve Bricker.

The multi-year Mullen Road Improvements project and summer road overlay projects will be completed on time- mostly due to project material orders that were placed before the shortage.

Capital project managers aren't the only ones adjusting planned work this season. Routine summer maintenance programs are also being impacted by the materials crunch.

"There is a nationwide paint shortage affecting the striping program. Both the paint and pigment for the paint are scarce. Of the 1,200 miles of striping planned for 2021, we estimate only about 20 miles will be striped," said Lindblom.

Lindblom added that crews striped everything last year, including primary roads twice. Because of this, the roads will be adequately striped, but may be faded. Crews are installing reflective buttons on 300-400 miles of roadway, including all arterial roadways, to supplement the faded striping.

The general consensus among industry professionals is that scarcity will lessen as manufacturers and material suppliers ramp up production. However, due to the backlog of projects, construction materials shortages are expected to continue into 2022. Other material shortages, including those to create computer chips which run moving equipment (pumps, generators, vehicles, etc.), are likely to be an issue for some time due to international backlogs and increasing demand.

Find more information, including updated schedules for Public Works projects this summer, visit the Thurston County Public Works Capital Project Dashboard.

County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3