TALENT — Traffic will be down to two lanes on Highway 99 between Rapp and Creel roads at times beginning today until the middle of June as the city replaces two older water lines with a new, 16-inch main line.

TALENT — Traffic will be down to two lanes on Highway 99 between Rapp and Creel roads at times beginning today until the middle of June as the city replaces two older water lines with a new, 16-inch main line.

The City Council awarded the project work to KOGAP Enterprise Inc. when it met April 18. Funds for the work, which came from a Community Development Block Grant award, needed to be appropriated by April 30 or they would have reverted to the federal government.

Traffic controls will be in place at all times that construction is under way. The project has a June 15 completion deadline.

City and ODOT officials had attempted to synchronize the waterline work with modernization of the state highway, but those improvements are now planned for 2015. Patching will be done over the cuts for waterlines, with a full repaving taking place in three years.

In all, 3,500 feet of ductile iron pipe will replace 6- and 12-inch lines. The main line will be underneath the northbound outside lane. Existing connections will need to be tied in, so the southbound lanes will be closed at times, with traffic rerouted to the northbound lanes.

"We will be adding in future service connections for properties on the east side that have potential to be annexed (into the city)," said City Engineer Jeff Ballard. The City Council approved a study on annexation in January.

KOGAP submitted the low bid of $632,345 for the project. Five other firms submitted bids, with the most expensive being $741,000. The engineering estimate for the work was $666,050.

The total grant amount was $849,050. Amountws above the construction cost will cover administration and engineering expenses.

Designs for the 2015 roadway improvements now are under consideration.

"Right now, ODOT is looking at two alternatives — a normal, five-lane setup and the next would be three lanes," said Mayor Bill Cecil. "That's the one we originally wanted to have looked at."

Either design would include a center turn lane, bike lanes, sidewalks and storm drains. The highway is presently four lanes with no center turn area. ODOT expects to have an analysis of the alternatives by June, said spokesman Gary Leaming.

"One of the questions is, 'What does that (three-lane setup) do in terms of mobility?' " said Leaming. "We have more questions than we have answers at this point."

The final design could affect how much money is available. A three-lane arrangement wouldn't be eligible to receive modernization funds, for example. The agency will use funds from multiple sources for the work. Talent will contribute $400,000 toward the upgrades. The cost of the one-mile project is estimated at $4.5 million.

After the alternatives are presented, the public will have an opportunity to comment, said Leaming.

Driveways would be consolidated, said Leaming, who added that little right of way will need to be purchased, although some will be needed for storm-water retention.

"The big benefit to Talent is that you are going to have sidewalks and bike lanes where today you have none," said Leaming.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.