Oregon Department of Transportation officials laid out for the Toledo City Council Tuesday evening what appears to be the way forward to completing the Highway 20 Eddyville to Pioneer Mountain Loop Bypass. The project is years late and many millions of dollars over budget.
They said on January 16th the Oregon Transportation Commission will be reviewing what is described as the preferred alternative to complete the project. The plan involves a full year of studying groundwater flows and hillslide slippage across critical hillside areas of the bypass. Armed with that data, they will drive a series of ground anchors to nail the foot of the hills to deeper, more sturdy soils and rock deep within the hills. ODOT officials said that this particular alternative, with good groundwater and slippage data, they will know where to drive the ground anchors and exactly how many.
But if they tried to meet a 2015 completion date of the project they would have to be satisfied with only a part of one winter’s data. Possessing only a partial picture of winter groundwater loading on the slopes, they would likely have to install more ground anchors than are truly needed, “just to be safe.” By extending the data collection through this winter and next, engineers predict they could save up to $20 million or more by driving only the number of ground anchors that are actually needed. But it would also require the road open in 2016, a year later.
ODOT staff emphasized that the engineers leading the project today are guided by some of the best landslide geologists and engineers in the world with many challenging projects successfully completed under their belts. They said the department has a great deal of confidence in their consultants, which some Salem transportation insiders have dubbed “The Dream Team.”
Most central coast residents have had a dream of their own, that some day they’ll drive to and from the valley more quickly and safely. They cautiously anticipate the project’s completion in 2016.
The Oregon Transporation Commission convenes their meeting early Wednesday morning, January 16th, in the ODOT building on the Capitol Complex in Salem.
Toledo City Council
The Toledo City Council also got a report from Treasurer Polly Chavarria that rising Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) rates the city pays to Salem are still being partially supported by a city reserve fund which should last another five years. But after that the city’s general fund would have to shoulder any further increases on its own which could have substantial impacts on other city departments. Chavarria said it would be possible to juggle things a bit and have the subsidies last ten years instead of five, but it would require heavier hits to the general fund sooner rather than later.
City Councilor Jill Lyons suggested that staff devise a plan so the reserve fund is never drawn down so that it would soften any sudden rate increases in the future. Chavarria said they will explore that option but reminded Councilor Lyons that Governor Kitzhaber, PERS and other major players in the PERS reform movement are contemplating a number of fixes that could directly affect Toledo and other city and county methods of coping with rising retirement costs for employees.
And the council tentatively decided to chip in one thousand dollars toward an ocean observation conference being put on by the Yaquina Bay Ocean Observation Initiative (YBOOI) later next month in Newport. Councilors had earlier been asked by YBOOI co-founder John Lavrakis to contribute two thousand dollars to help defray conference costs but councilors thought two thousand was a bit steep for the city’s strapped budget. So when the council meets again later this month they are expected to formally decide to make it one thousand dollars while also hitting up other Toledo ocean-dependent industries for contributions aimed at the conference. The conference has invited a number of ocean observing and marine science equipment and boat repair and refurbishment companies to take a grand tour of the Greater Newport/Yaquina Bay and River region with an eye to relocating here or expanding service levels that are already here. The Port of Toledo is in the middle of a large expansion of their boat yard at Sturgeon Bend that will soon be able to work on 98% of all commercial fishing vessels that ply the waters of the U.S. West Coast and Alaska.
Oregon Department of Transportation crews will be doing emergency paving to repair sunken grades on U.S. 101 near Moolack Beach at milepost 134-137 and on OR 229 (Siletz Highway) at milepost 19-21 starting on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Crews will be working on U.S. 101 paving for most of the day on Wednesday.
One lane will remain open with flaggers controlling two-way traffic. On Thursday or Friday, depending on the weather, crews will be paving on OR 229. One lane will remain open with flaggers controlling two-way traffic. Motorists should expect only minor delays.
ODOT officials announced today that Granite Construction’s subsidiary, Yaquina River Constructors, (YRC) will pay ODOT back $15 million, then pack up and go home while ODOT moves ahead with the construction of the freeway through the Pioneer Mountain area between Eddyville and just east of Toledo.
ODOT said both parties waive any claims against each other and that ODOT’s notice of default will be taken back. ODOT said YRC no longer has a contractual obligation to complete the project and will demobilize from the project site in an orderly manner. ODOT will assume the job of project management.
ODOT said it determined that the settlement with YRC is in the best interest of the State of Oregon in order to avoid the delay and costs drawn out litigation and to allow ODOT to move forward with construction on the US 20 Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville project this summer.
ODOT Public Information Officer Rick Little told News Lincoln County that the project now has two final phases. The first phase will be let out to bid as soon as possible with a contractor hired in time to begin construction by July 1. The second phase of the project still needs to be designed to relect the new physical realities of the project. Little says they’re scrapping the bridges and putting the highway back down on the ground and using culverts for creeks and streams. Little added that the highway will be slightly re-aligned to avoid landslide areas.
Little said ODOT expects to have the Highway 20 project finished sometime in 2015. When it is, it’s expected to shave off 15 to 20 minutes off the hour and five minute drive time between Newport and Corvallis. A higher grade highway, with no hair pin turns, will also be able to handle larger hauling and delivery trucks that currently must use Highway 18 north of Lincoln City to access Central Coast businesses and industrial areas. Port of Newport General Manager Don Mann said he’s pleased the project is back underway but that it’s completion bears no enhanced benefit to the port at this time in that most large trucks that use the current Highway 20 can get to and from the Port of Newport with no problems.
A statement from Granite Construction Headquarters near Monterey, California read:
This has been an extremely challenging project from its inception. The design solution that ODOT intends to use was not originally available to us. With this resolution, ODOT will be able to complete the project in a different manner and with potential advantages that were not available to Granite as the design-builder on the project.
We agreed to the settlement, which included payment and other obligations by both parties, in an effort to resolve this issue and eliminate protracted litigation, future design risk and potential future liabilities for Granite. ODOT and YRC agreed that settlement under these terms was in the best interest of both parties.
Granite has a proven track record of building some of the largest, most complex infrastructure projects across the country. We also have one of the oldest and most robust ethics and compliance programs in the industry. The company has won numerous awards including being named as one of the world’s most ethical companies by Ethisphere for three straight years. Earlier this year, Granite received the Alliant Build America Award from the Associated General Contractors of America, which deemed a Granite-led project in Maryland as one of the nation’s most impressive of 2011.
At long last Lincoln City and ODOT have agreed to a way forward, aimed at lessening traffic back-ups along Highway 101 from 32nd down to 23rd streets in the Nelscott area. That narrow section of two-lane road has been a migraine headache for travelers and locals alike, especially during the touristy summer months.
The city council and ODOT have mutually agreed to work together to create a slightly wider 101 which includes not only bicycle lanes and sidewalks, but also left turn lanes that will help alleviate the massive traffic jams caused while motorists try to turn off the highway onto side streets. The agreement will also settle a long running debate between ODOT and the city over how wide the highway should be. ODOT wanted four lanes with turn lanes; the city wanted something far less so local businesses that line the highway wouldn’t be forced out to accommodate considerably more pavement.
So, again, the agreed project will be just one lane each way with turn lanes. But construction is not expected to begin anytime soon due to requirements for a design and planning process that requires much public input. However, officials say once that year long process is complete, construction can begin, with completion hopefully by late 2013 or early 2014. To minimize traffic impacts ODOT says they will construct the new highway in stages with detours created for each segment of the project.