NEWPORT — Traffic on U.S. Highway 101 slowed considerably this week as work crews with the Oregon Department of Transportation began their annual battle with geologic forces.
Landslides, sinkholes and dubious underpinnings are being repaired at several sites, and travelers can expect major work later this summer, according to ODOT spokesperson Angela Beers Seydel. North of Newport at Moolack Beach, milepost 136, crews this week were repairing an ancient slide that hinders the highway and passersby.
“This is a slide that moves the roadbed — and anyone who drives through experiences the rollercoaster effect,” commented Seydel. “One can look to the side and see the effects on the old road to recognize the results if we did not do regular maintenance.”
Repairs are also underway to sunken paving at Johnson Creek, milepost 133.2. Seydel said highway engineers are studying both sites “for a permanent solution.” Meanwhile, monitoring equipment has been placed at both locations to measure slide movement.
A major project later this summer is likely to cause 20-minute delays as road workers replace a culvert and stabilize the slope at Beverly Beach, where old culverts have formed a large, deep pond.
“The pond was drained with pumps last year, but the entire slope is unstable,” Sedel reported. “A landslide with the potential of washing out U.S. 101 could happen if the slope isn’t stabilized and the culverts fixed.”
A 1965 scientific study cited the Beverly Beach area as unique for its unstable geography.
“Mass movement just north of Yaquina Head is much more severe than erosion in areas of similar lithology and rock attitude,” concluded the authors of Coastal Landslides of Northern Oregon. “Convergence of wave energy is an additional erosional factor near headlands.”
Seydel urged patience, stating traffic on NE Beverly Drive will be reduced to one lane controlled by a flagger. A start date has not been announced.
“Crews are working long hours in the summer to create and maintain a safe and reliable transportation system that connects people and helps Oregon’s communities and economy thrive,” she concluded. “We appreciate everyone paying close attention to the drive and slowing down in work zones.”