Hooskanaden Rollercoaster

Travelers between Brookings and Gold Beach will be relieved when U.S. Highway 101 is restored to three lanes plus shoulders, instead of the winding roller coaster route presently at the Hooskanaden slide site.

The Hooskanaden slide repair project on U.S. Highway 101 will be underway in early May, as soon as the ground dries out. The project should be completed by August, says Oregon Department of Transportation spokesperson Dan Latham. The current project was delayed from starting last fall due to a failed bid process.


The winning bid in the current round was awarded to Suulataaq out of Suisun City, Calif., for just under $3.7 million. The money for the final repair will come primarily from federal emergency relief funds.


The company awarded the bid pronounces its name “soo loo dock,” which means “gold” in Yupik, which is an Athabascan language. “Hooskanaden” means “gravel place” in Tututni, which is also an Athabaskan language. Perhaps common language roots will bode well for the project, although spelling will likely still suffer.


Suulataaq is an Alaska Native Corporation subsidiary and is a Federal Small Disadvantaged Business.


“We operate our company to comply with the values of our more than 3,600 Alaskan native shareholders,” says the company’s website.


“We’re still very early in the process, and the contractor will need several weeks to get organized, submit paperwork, etcetera,” Latham said. “We will likely have a pre-construction meeting a few weeks prior to breaking ground. By then, we should have more information about the staging plans and construction schedule."


Construction will require lane closures, and flaggers will be used as needed, he said. “We don’t expect any delays to exceed 20 minutes.”


The plan is to restore the highway to three lanes, plus shoulders as it existed before the slide. 


Currently, the temporary route resembles an asphalt roller coaster with its two narrow and winding lanes that dip and climb across the chasm created by the giant mudslide nearly a year ago on Feb. 25 that completely closed the highway for nearly two weeks. According to an article in The World, heavy rains dropped the road 30 feet and shoved it 100 feet west.


“Tidewater Contractors went above and beyond the call of duty in responding to the Hooskanaden slide and quickly reopening the highway,” Latham said. 


ODOT spent about $1 million for the temporary repair, which closely bypasses the original slide area. 


While the highway was closed, the Carpenterville Road, Highway 255, was the winding and narrow detour route between Brookings and Pistol River that added about 25 minutes to the commute and made many drivers anxious.


ODOT looked at alternatives to simply restoring the same highway configuration. 


“When it comes to the geology of the southern Oregon coast, I’m reluctant to ever use the word ‘permanent,’” Latham said. “However, last year we looked at three different options that would help keep the highway between Gold Beach and Brookings open every winter: 


1) improve Carpenterville Highway so it could act as a fully functioning alternate route, 


2) use a variety of strategies to stabilize the hillside, or 


3) build a bridge that spans the slide area. 


“Our back-of-the-envelope analysis suggested that the cost of these efforts would range from $300 million to nearly $440 million. Securing the funding for any of these options would be a heavy lift.” 


ODOT continues to monitor the site daily, checking on cracks and ground movement. Past closures from large events occurred in 1977, 1995 and 2019 — about every 15 to 20 years.


“The cracking we’re currently seeing is consistent with the ground movement that happens most winters,” he said. “We’ll keep patching the road surface as best we can until Suulataaq begins work.”

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