Crews working on the Hooskanaden Slide on U.S. 101 12 miles north of Brookings are crossing their fingers in hopes of having a single, graveled lane of traffic open to traffic by Thursday or Friday, officials said.
“But don’t hold us to that, yet,” said Oregon Department of Transportation official Darrin Neavoll said. “Wednesday will be a good test, as we have rain coming in and we will see how the slide reacts.”
The roadway began to slide when a torrential rainstorm struck the area, dumping more than a foot of water in Curry County. The road first slipped 4 inches Feb. 24, then fell 2 feet the next morning and to 12 feet below grade by that afternoon. The entire section of damaged roadway has since been sliding, up to 2 feet an hour, over the embankment and toward the ocean.
“I had the opportunity to see the slide today and the pictures do not do it justice,” Neavoll said Sunday. “It is amazing how much ground has moved and is moving.”
The slide had moved another 10 feet by Tuesday, he reported that morning.
“We’re getting close to where we think we can maintain a single lane through the area,” Neavoll said. “(At the north end), it’s starting to look like a road — well, a really rough road. Tidewater got the north end pretty much ready for traffic, and are moving south.”
Two ramps have been built on either end of the slide area, and crews are moving mud at the south end to place rock. They spent the weekend trying to divert water coming off the hill that was contributing to the movement.
“Once that water is removed we are hoping to see it slow down,” he said. “We need to get (movement) down to around 2 to 3 inches an hour before we feel comfortable getting the contractor on the slide and trying to get a rock road built.”
Good weather over the weekend, too, lured people to the area to see the slide.
“That was interfering with the operation,” Neavoll said. “We had Oregon State Police help keep people out of the area Monday and have put another person at the barricade to keep people out. We just don’t want anybody to get hurt. We know people want to see it but we hope we can get a lane soon and people can drive through it an look at it then.”
Motorists are being diverted around Carpenterville Road, which adds another 6 miles and at least 20 minutes to get between Gold Beach and Brookings. Deliveries of mail, groceries and gasoline began trickling in last week, although Fred Meyer has periodically run out of gas for vehicles.
“The detour continues to hold up and we hope that will continue,” Neavoll said, adding that due to cooperation with the drivers of larger delivery trucks, the motor carrier enforcement officers will head home.
Staging for construction
Tidewater Contractors had been amassing rock and gravel all last week in preparation for work to open a single lane of traffic under 24-hour flagging, Neavoll said.
“We plan to be as aggressive as we can, but the only risk is, once we load all this rock on the slide, that may cause it to increase its movement again,” he said. “We will not know that until we get working on it, but we are hoping not.”
He said the detour over Carpenterville Road is “working as well as it can.”
That narrow, winding lane has been patched in a dozens of spots to reinforce it to accommodate heavier vehicles, including RVs and delivery and log trucks. There are also three spots where traffic flow is reduced to one lane, Neavoll said.
“We are having a few trucks that we have to turn around because they are too long,” he said. “We have allowed a few fuel trucks with pilot cars get through so we get fuel into Brookings. They are working on a plan to have smaller trucks if this continues longer. We are seeing some companies transferring to smaller trucks to get through.”
Motor carrier enforcement officers — essentially law enforcement for large semis — have turned back vehicles that have trailers longer than 40 feet or those with an overall length of 60 feet or greater. They are staged at Carpenterville Road near South Coast Lumber and at the northern terminus in Pistol River.
“I really appreciate our motor carrier enforcement officers helping at the checking points,” Neavoll said. “I think that provides a good presence as they start up Carpenterville highway. Also OSP was doing a great job patrolling the road and that seemed to be helping to keep people slowed down.”
Additionally, message boards on Interstate 5, U.S. 101 and state highways 42 in Oregon and 199 in California are posted to inform drivers of the closure and detour restrictions.
“We hope this is helping reduce trucks coming there and not knowing about it,” Neavoll said. “We know this is an impact and are working diligently to get at least a single lane open.”