Banks, News, Transportation

ODOT: Highway 47 reopening delayed due to utility lines

Banks-area residents have been left without access to the north entrance of town since the closure of Highway 47 began in mid-May to replace an aged bridge.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) had originally hoped to reopen the road by October 1. 

Now, completion of the project to replace the 85-year-old bridge over West Fork Dairy Creek just outside city limits has been delayed without a known reopening date, ODOT said Thursday.

“The window for utility relocation to meet our original target date has passed, and we are still coordinating with our utility partners to relocate their lines,” ODOT said in a press release explaining the delay. 

“We understand the impacts to the community and surrounding residents, and are doing what we can to finish the bridge and open the road,” the state agency said. 

A detour to route traffic around the closure remains in place, but it hasn’t been a seamless transition for motorists to route around what is usually a major commuter route for residents in Manning, Hayward, Buxton, and Timber, and for motorists heading to Seaside. 

Detour map courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation

Crashes multiply along detour route

During the July 13 Banks Fire District 13 board meeting, Banks Fire Chief Rodney Linz noted that there had been five crashes the fire district responded to at Sellers Road and Highway 26 since the closure began in mid-May. 

There have been more crashes since.

Linz noted that his agency wasn’t the only one aware of the traffic snarl resulting from the detour; he rattled off a laundry list of state and local agencies—ODOT, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police—all of whom have to deal with traffic, construction, or crashes in some way at the intersection.

In a July 8 report to the Banks City Council, Washington County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ryan Pope noted the first five crashes near Sellers. Of the five, at least three were caused by local residents failing to follow traffic regulations, Pope said.

Thus far, only minor injuries have been reported as a result of the crashes. 

The delay

A photo showing utility lines still in place over the construction area. Photo: ODOT

With the overhead utility lines still in place, ODOT crews are unable to set the final sheet piles that will support the new bridge deck. 

“This doesn’t mean we aren’t making progress – we’ve also been working to realign the creek to help prevent downstream bank erosion,” ODOT said.

Until the overhead lines are removed, ODOT won’t have an estimate of when the project will be finished. 

“Once that happens we will work with the contractor to provide a new estimated completion date. Some of the remaining work is weather dependent and may impact the schedule,” the agency warned.

According to a bridge report prepared by ODOT (.pdf, page 470), the bridge was built in 1936.

What’s been done at the site?

While ODOT coordinates with area utilities to finish their side of things, the agency listed what they’ve accomplished so far in the project. 

– Removing the old structure and preparing the site for the new one – including clearing the area and doing excavation work.

– Digging out and placing the material and stone embankment to build the base needed to widen the road on the south end of the bridge.

– Digging out the roadside ditches for better drainage.

– Forming, installing rebar and pouring the concrete for the bridge abutments, which are the foundations at either end of the bridge.

– Installed all of the pipe piling, which supports the bridge abutments, deck beams and the road surface. The majority of the sheet pile protecting the abutments from creek scour and debris has also been completed.

– Added vegetation and boulders along the sides of the creek to help with erosion control.

What remains to be done?

– Finish installing the sheet piles into place which protect the abutments from creek scour and erosion.

– Install the bridge beams between the bridge abutments to support the deck and driving surface. The beams are precast, which will help speed the process along.

– Install the bridge deck. This includes building the forms, placing rebar to strengthen the deck and then pouring and finishing the concrete.

– Install the bridge rail and guard rail.

– Install the impact panels, which are the concrete pads underneath the asphalt just before the bridge on each side. 

– Build the road base or subgrade to support the asphalt or road surface.

– Pave and install the permanent striping. Open the road to traffic!

– Finish seeding and planting in the area.

ODOT urged those looking for more information on current traffic conditions on state highways to visit TripCheck.com.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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