The project involves about a 1 mi. (1.6 km) stretch of highway, bounded on both sides by about 20 businesses. When finished, the highway — a designated scenic
byway — will feature two 12-ft. (3.6 m) lanes,
a 14-ft. (4.6 m) median, 6 ft. (1
For more than 10 years, engineers at the Oregon Department of Transportation have tried to come up with a solution to a congested stretch of U.S. 101 in a historic tourist area on the central Oregon Coast. Shop owners feared widening the two lane stretch would increase traffic and further jeopardize pedestrians crossing the highway to reach shops on both sides.
There also was concern that widening the road would harm the historic charm of the Nelscott neighborhood, which features the Nelscott Mercantile Center built in 1927. Environmental issues presented some challenges as well. A creek and wetlands parallel the east side of the highway while to the west there is a tall, steep slope, home to several houses.
But finally, the state and federal governments and neighboring shop owners were able to reach an agreement that ODOT believes that should make everyone happy.
"So far, everyone has been very cooperative," said Ray Cranston, assistant project manager of ODOT. "We involved the different businesses during the project development phase, so they knew the project goals and had the chance to offer input. The contractor notified local businesses of the construction and discussed how that will impact them. We have scheduled a meeting with the contractor and the small business owners to share input about the project schedule and hear concerns from the businesses. And we’ll have traffic control to allow customers to access the businesses during construction."
The project involves about a 1 mi. (1.6 km) stretch of highway, bounded on both sides by about 20 businesses. When finished, the highway — a designated scenic byway — will feature two 12-ft. (3.6 m) lanes, a 14-ft. (4.6 m) median, 6 ft. (1.8 m) shoulders and 6 ft. sidewalks on each side. The two-year project is scheduled to be completed in spring of 2016.
"I think it’s really going to improve the appearance of that part of town," Cranston said. "We’re trying to make it look as attractive as we can when it is finished."
Excavators will first move about 14,000 cu. yd. (10,704 cu m) of dirt. They’ll do that with some fairly new technology that allows the equipment operators with K&E Excavation to monitor their progress by computer.
"We made a digital model of the project and they can load that information into a program and have it displayed in the equipment so operators know what elevation they need to dig to just by looking at a computer screen in the equipment," said Brady Pauls, ODOT construction coordinator. "These guys have been using the technology for a few years and are probably the leaders in the state with it. Even though it’s pretty large upfront cost for them to install all the equipment, they see it as being a real advantage in their production."
Crews also will build two mechanically stabilized earth walls on the east side of the highway, as well as seven other retaining walls, all designed to protect the wetlands and Baldy Creek, stabilize banks and provide room for the expanded highway.
"Even with the retaining walls there were questions about long term stability," Cranston said. "So ODOT purchased two of the houses. There were minor settlement concerns. We weren’t comfortable having houses already on steep ground above a wall like that."
They’ll also replace two existing concrete box culverts with large arch pipe crossings, and build a water retention facility so that the expanded roadway doesn’t channel more storm water into the creek and cause it to flood.
"The retention facilities are large pipes that store water during flood events," Cranston said. "They allow the water to flow out at a controlled rate rather than contributing to a flood event."
Finally, crews will realign east 32nd Street to track with west 32nd Street and add a traffic signal both for pedestrians and vehicles. When pedestrians enter the roadway flashing lights will signal traffic of their presence.
The new sidewalks and all curbs will be ADA accessible, and there will be a new parking lot at the historical Nelscott Shopping center, as well as a significant amount of new landscaping, including trees and shrubs. The sidewalk will be separated from the highway by a 6 ft. strip of landscaping.
"From a transportation perspective, this project will help manage the heavy U.S. 101 traffic of this area in a safer and more efficient way," said ODOT spokesman Richard Little. "At the same time, we’re increasing the opportunity for residents and tourists to visit the historic area, and its businesses, on foot and by bicycle in a safer manner with new sidewalks and a new pedestrian crosswalk. This project is a benefit to all modes of travel and to the residents and businesses in the community."