Brookings officials are urging citizens to join them in an effort to prompt the state to provide a permanent fix to Hooskanaden Slide area, 12 miles north of Brookings, where a quarter-mile of roadway washed out during torrential rain storms in late February.
Former City Manager Gary Milliman, who serves as chair of the Southwest Area Commission on Transportation (SWACT), cited Del Norte County’s plans to permanently address its problems with Last Chance Grade, a precarious, winding narrow section of road south of Crescent City that is subject to the same situation.
“Del Norte County, local, state and federal officials have come together to develop a strategy to address the Highway 101 failure at Last Chance Grade,” Milliman said. “It’s a long timeline, with construction not expected to begin until at least 2031. But at least they have a plan, and they have commitments from all levels of government to support the plan. We need to do the same for Hooskanaden Slide.”
ODOT officials have said numerous times over the years there might not be a permanent solution that wouldn’t be affected by the naturally occurring slide at Hooskanaden. Some have suggested building a bridge over the slide but geologists say the ground is too unstable to anchor one.
Milliman is recommending SWACT write a letter to the Oregon Transportation Commission and the Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation calling for a coordinated effort among local, state and federal agencies to address the Hooskanaden slide issue.
SWACT is a 27-member advisory committee consisting of local officials and transportation system stakeholders in the Curry, Coos and Douglas Counties geographic area.
At a recent SWACT meeting Milliman appointed himself and Curry County Commissioner Court Boice to a subcommittee to gather information in preparation for the SWACT letter.
“We have been advised by regional ODOT staff that a rough cost estimate for a semi-permanent fix would be in the $40 million range, and that it is not a part of any current budget request,” Milliman said.
“The highway outage caused by this slide was more than just an inconvenience,” said Brookings Mayor Jake Pieper. “It had real public safety and economic impacts on the Curry County community.
“We need to bring this matter to the attention of our state and federal policymakers in a more aggressive way, which is why we are calling on the community to write letters to the SWACT describing how this highway outage has adversely affected them,” Pieper said.
Milliman also wants Carpenterville Road conditions addressed. Carpenterville, which served as the coastal highway until the current road was built in the early 1960s, was used as a detour for two weeks after Hooskanaden slid more than 100 feet to the west.
But that state-maintained road is long, winding and narrow, and had to be stabilized with rock and gravel to accommodate the increased traffic during that time. Hooskanaden Slide starts at the summit of Carpenterville Road and saturating rains threaten to make it slide, as well.
Delivery truck drivers were limited as to the length of their vehicles to be permitted to drive over Carpenterville Road or were turned around at either end of the detour. The ensuing delays prevented the delivery of many items to Brookings, particularly gasoline.
Ambulance drivers were unable to take patients from Brookings to Curry General Hospital in Gold Beach — they were forced to go to Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City.
“We also need to pursue improvements to Carpenterville Road as an emergency alternative route,” Milliman said. “Carpenterville Road has its own problems. This road needs to be improved and maintained to a standard whereby it can be used as an alternative route at a moment’s notice.”
City Manager Janell Howard is seeking more information from citizens about how the slide and the detour affected them in those two weeks. She urges citizens to visit https://www.brookings.or.us/DocumentCenter/View/1360 to see a sample letter they can send to the OCT to prompt action.