I was driving up the Mount Ashland access road recently and noticed an awful lot of rocks had spilled on the road. It looks like crews pushed them back to the shoulder, but I'm wondering why there hasn't been netting like you see along mountain passes on the freeway put up to keep drivers, hikers, bikers and skiers safe?
— Rose V., Jacksonville
Jackson County Roads Director John Vial tells us there are major differences between the Mount Ashland access road and freeways cutting through mountain passes.
Costs and length are two factors that work against putting nets up to keep rocks from tumbling onto the road.
"It's extremely difficult to put up netting on a road with one continuous cut," Vial said. "When you are on a mountain pass, the rock wall lasts a few hundred feet and it's done. From Old 99 to the ski lodge, it's 8.9 miles, and you would have to screen the majority of it, making it cost-prohibitive."
Also, rock cuts on passes are through a solid rock wall. Most of the Mount Ashland road is surrounded by volcanic soil with embedded rocks.
"How are you going to secure the nets when you're not putting them into rock face?" Vial said.
From a different perspective, Vial said the county database going back into the 1980s has recorded 269 automobile crashes on the access road.
"The huge majority has been snow, ice and weather-related," he said. "We've had one reported crash of a car hitting a rock, only one. Clearly that's not presented a problem."
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