By Brian Bullock
Pilot staff writer
Highway 101 south of Port Orford was reopened to one lane of traffic at 8 a.m. Thursday morning, as promised by highway officials and contractors.
Oregon Department of Transportation crews and LTM, Inc. worked since the weekend to make the road passable. Ray Cranston, ODOT district manager, said the goal was to get one lane of the road open this week. Further repairs are expected to take months.
"We'll be open before spring break," Cranston said.
Emergency repairs are expected to cost approximately $70,000. A permanent fix will most likely cost in excess of $1 million, according to ODOT.
The slide, at milepost 303 approximately 3 miles south of Port Orford, was initially reported Friday afternoon. ODOT crews were able to keep one lane of the road open for several hours, but the entire highway was closed later that evening.
One lane was opened for a few hours on both Saturday and Sunday, but continued erosion closed both lanes again Sunday night. Approximately 350 feet of roadway is affected.
Heavy rain, high surf and high winds were suspected of causing the slide. More than 5 1/2 inches of rain was recorded last Friday and Saturday at the Curry Coastal Pilot weather station, with the highest wind gust at 49 mph.
Pete Castro, a geotechnical engineer for ODOT, said the slide is the result of long-term instability that goes back a long time.
"This is a man-made fill that's failing," Castro said. "More than likely what's kicked this thing off was the elevated water level and the high surf."
Castro said water is still getting through the culvert beneath the slide, but its not flowing as well as it should. He said the culvert had shifted and dropped because of undermining.
Even though ODOT officials expect the road to be passable with one lane open using flaggers and a pilot vehicle, Castro said the road will need to be closed for about two weeks later this year so permanent repairs can be completed.
ODOT recommends travelers use state Highways 38 and 42 and Highway 199 to reach Interstate 5.
"We're doing everything possible to get this fixed," Cranston said. "We're concerned, but we're confident we can get this lane open."
The slide is the worst of a handful of sunken grades between Brookings and Port Orford. Most allow traffic to flow through. A slump near Burnt Hill Beach has created regulated traffic with flaggers and a pilot vehicle.
Cranston said the Rocky Point slide was bad, but wouldn't compare it to slides near Arizona Beach in 1993 or Hooskanaden Creek in 1995.
On Friday, the U.S. Forest Service reported that Forest Road 1917, Long Ridge Road, about 17 east of Brookings, is not suitable for large vehicles because of a slope failure. Forest Road 1060 in the Applegate Ranger District is similarly impacted.
Road condition updates are available online at www.Tripcheck.com or by calling 511 or (800) 977-ODOT (6368). Anybody calling from outside Oregon should dial (503) 588-2941. For California highway conditions, dial (916) 445-7623 or go online at http://www.dot.ca.gov.