La PINE, Ore. - (Update: Comments from ODOT, store worker)
With soil removal and drilling for soil samples underway, construction work remains stalled on the $17 million Highway 97 Wickiup Junction Overcrossing project near La Pine, as it has been since mid-May due to settlement of the ramps.
In an update Thursday, the Oregon Department of Transportation said it has been working with the contractor to remove the embankment placed for the ramps to stabilize them from future settlement, and to give ODOT more time to work with geotechnical engineers to further evaluate the situation.
ODOT engineers and their geotechnical consultant will be monitoring groundwater pressure, performing settlement measurements and gathering additional data related to the settlement problem. Core samples have been drilled in the area to help gather the data, ODOT Region 4 spokesman Peter Murphy said.
The Wickiup project team has added a multidisciplinary geotechnical group to review the project, Murphy said. The team includes members from ODOT, the Federal Highway Administration, Western Federal Lands and a geotechnical consultant.
"The evaluation of the settlement is ongoing and we continue to gather subsurface data, and perform additional testing and analysis in order to determine next steps," Murphy's update stated. "No further work will occur on the project until we complete our investigation."
Murphy said the goal of the project is to boost safety by removing the last at-grade railroad crossing in Central Oregon.
"Our objective is to find out what's going on underneath those ramps and the bridge itself," Murphy told NewsChannel 21. "Obviously, there has been some settling, so why is that happening? We have to find out what's going on before we can move forward. You know, you can't keep adding dirt and roadway onto something that's sinking. You've got to figure out what's going on and come up with a solution."
Brently Siders, who works at Wickiup Junction Discount Groceries, said he thinks ODOT dropped the ball when they began construction and should have done soil samples before even beginning construction.
"I feel like they should have done more observation on this end and got more people's opinions about it honestly, from those who've lived here and had to deal with it their whole lives from living here," Sliders said. "It's something that is not stable at all for building, and it's caused nothing but headaches for us."
Siders said he agrees the overcrossing is needed, but now with this speed bump on the construction project, traffic will continue to be the same for the time being.
The next phase of sub-surface investigation is scheduled to continue through the end of September, at which time ODOT expects to have its preliminary review complete.
The project's future timeline will be assessed pending recommendations from the preliminary analysis, the update said.
The project north of La Pine will carry cars and trucks over the railroad tracks at the Wickiup Junction intersection. Nearly a year ago, two large beams crashed to the ground, stopping work until last March.