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Old Siskiyou Highway to close for two months for slide repair

ASHLAND — A nearly two-month road closure begins Monday for contractors to begin repairs to a large slide near milepost 6 on Old Siskiyou Highway.

The $2.3 million project will repair the Preacher slide just east and downhill from the landmark Callahan’s Mountain Lodge.

Short-term fixes to the problem area over the past seven to eight years have been unsuccessful, prompting state transportation officials to embark on a long-term solution. Another slide closer to the Greensprings community was repaired last year.

Grants Pass-based contractor Copeland Paving Inc. will build a rock buttress and install a slope drainage system to divert water away from the Preacher slide.

Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming said the road was expected to be closed till Sept. 15.

Advance warning signs will direct travelers to detour around the work zone using either Highway 66 or Interstate 5.

Leaming said most of the traffic on Old Siskiyou Highway, also known as Old Highway 99, is local.

“A lot of people use it to ride their bicycles to Mount Ashland — the more avid bicycle riders who do the big country rides — and there are tourists who will just sometimes take a leisurely drive in the country and see some of the older bridges we have at Dollarhide and Steinman,” Leaming said.

“This slide has been acting out for the past seven or eight years on a historic slip plane, and various repairs have been made. We made several temporary repairs, trying to get it to stick, but this is an engineered repair. Our contractor is going to go in and dig out all the bad material and go in with a rock buttress similar to what we did on Greensprings project last year. They’ll be laying layers of compacted rock to hold the mountain side in place and then set up a better drainage system.”

ODOT Assistant District Manager Jeremiah Griffin said, while the closure would be inconvenient for residents, delivery drivers and tourists during peak summer travel time, the best and most permanent repair solution involves full closure of the highway.

Leaming said ODOT had notified residents and businesses up near Emigrant Lake and on the opposite side of the slide area. While inconvenient, secondary access is doable.

“If you live on the bottom of the slide, instead of jumping up to the freeway to come into Ashland, you’ll have to go all the way down to Highway 66 and come in that way,” said Leaming.

“If you’re above the slide, say for Callahan’s or a few residents, get on the interstate and come into the valley that way.”

Leaming said his agency was mindful of the current fire season dangers, but that the slide area would be more difficult to repair, and likely to cause bigger problems, if utilized this winter in its current state.

“What’s a little concerning is we have had a lot of fire this year already, so any closure of a road is always a concern during fire season,” Leaming noted. “But, at the same time, it’s dry so the idea is to get it completed during the dry season, so we can get it open during the fall rains.”

Online, https://www.oregon.gov/odot/projects/pages/project-details.aspx?project=18899

Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

File photo / Mail TribuneA recurring landslide near milepost 6 of the Old Siskiyou Highway will take two months to repair, transportation officials say. This photo was taken during a slide that closed the highway in 2012.