When it comes to the next Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake, ODOT says they want to pour a lot of money into strengthening highways, hillsides and bridges in four phases going out several decades all around the central and western parts of the state. We’re talking billions of dollars.
As you can see in the above map, the first emphasis at road/bridge/hillside strengthening will be along routes that can get relief supplies into Oregon’s main population areas – Portland, Salem, Eugene and depending on the damage, Medford. It’s Highway 97 from California, up through Bend, then north to Interstate 84, west to Portland, down I-5/99 to Highway 58 east out of Eugene and then back to 97.
ODOT says putting a lot of money into roads and bridges that likely won’t survive the earthquake, mainly in the coastal range, is not the best use of highway strengthening. Much of their disaster relief supplies and services will likely be brought in by sea anyway, is the conventional wisdom.
However, ODOT has released a study that shows which coastal highways may be passable or made passable with rapid response re-construction. These highways include, in the Newport area, Highway 101 north to Lincoln City, Highway 101 from Florence to Coos Bay, and Highway 38 to the valley.
To the north, 101 from Lincoln City to Bay City, and Lincoln City along Highway 18 to the valley. Also, Astoria to Portland along Highway 30. These are the roads that will be given Phase II treatment on strengthening next.
For Phase III strengthening of highways, bridges and slide areas, it’ll be Seaside to Portland along Highway 26, Florence to Eugene along 126, and Coos Bay to Brookings along 101.
The lowest priority roads to be strengthened will be Newport to the valley along Highway 20 and Coos Bay to Roseburg along Highway 42. This last category will be the last to be reinforced due to the high probability of the most severe destruction due to propensity of landslides. ODOT’s reasoning, no doubt, is to put the most money into areas that will do the most “good.”
So, for most News Lincoln County readers, if you live in Newport or Lincoln City, 101 and Highway 18 is your lifeline. But if you live in Waldport and Yachats, you will likely have to be the most resourceful if not self-reliant – at least for the early going. Again most disaster relief will likely come by sea. (Images of the Normandy invasion of World War II come to mind.) But that in no way implies that the rest of the coast will have it noticeably easier for the first two to four weeks after the earthquake.
In ODOT’s report they couch their work plan and rationale for its particular sequencing in terms of their best scientific guestimate. They remind everyone that much more scientific analysis is required to make their guestimates more reliable but this, so far, is how it looks to them.
So much up-front strengthening along the “backbone” of disaster relief delivery will be coming from Central Oregon into the Willamette Valley and eventually to the coast. But again, the presumption among disaster preparedness officials is that the coast will receive the bulk of their relief supplies via the sea and helicopters. Seaplanes are expected to be pretty busy as well.