Oregon Department of Transportation is set to begin work later this month on a slide-prone area of Highway 66 near the Greensprings summit.
The $700,000 project was initially scheduled for next year but had to be expedited as heavy spring and winter rains caused the road to drop six to eight inches in a week.
ODOT has been patching the road for about the last 20 years to prevent it from sliding down the mountain and even installed a new drainage system in 2006, explained spokesman Gary Leaming.
“Prior to this year, we’ve gone in every spring and done the fix and nursed it along,” Leaming said.
However, conditions have worsened, and the road has become costly to maintain because of the constant sliding.
“This year, it’s been so wet for so long that we can’t hold it together,” Leaming said. “We had the project programmed for next year … but because of the ongoing nature of the slide and concern over completely losing the road, we accelerated the project to this year.”
Crews have already had to level the roadway and fill the cracks four times this year, Leaming said, adding that each asphalt patch costs about $15,000.
Bids on the project open July 26, and construction is expected to be underway by July 31.
The highway between Buckhorn Springs Road and Tyler Creek Road will be completely closed for construction for at least the month of August.
During that time, traffic will be rerouted to Dead Indian Memorial Road and Hyatt-Prairie Road, about a 40-minute detour, Leaming estimated.
Crews will dig up about 350 feet of the road, adjust the drainage and install a rock buttress, which will act like a “great big rock door stop, holding the highway in place on the hillside,” Leaming said.
The goal is to have at least one lane of the highway open by Sept. 1 and to complete the project by the end of September, he said.
As inconvenient as a detour will be, the alternative is to watch the roadway slide off the cliff, said Diarmuid McGuire, co-owner of the Green Springs Inn.
McGuire said that section of the “grapevine,” which is about five miles east of his inn, has been sliding downhill and causing problems for the 24 years that he’s lived in Greensprings.
“And in the last few months, it’s been sliding a few inches a week,” he said. “It’s headed downhill fast.”
McGuire's wife popped her tire on a sharp lip in the road a few years ago. And currently there is a chasm in the road a few feet deep, he said.
ODOT closed one lane and installed an automated signal in mid-June in lieu of yet another ineffective asphalt patch.
McGuire said the agency has done a great job of keeping the Greensprings community apprised of the forthcoming construction.
“It’s not anybody’s fault,” he added. “It’s geology, not bureaucracy.”
— Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.