Oregon highway project faces even more delays as costs mount

EDDYVILLE, Ore. - The people who use Highway 20 near Eddyville, Ore. on a regular basis are fed up with the delays and costs of the ill-fated road realignment project on their highway.

"It's just been one thing after another, you know? One delay after another," said Cindy McConnell, who lives along the highway.

The largest highway construction project in Oregon, already nearly $80 million over budget, has been on hold for almost two years. The Oregon Department of Transportation and the contractor are now locked in a dispute over what to do next.

The highway project is located between Corvallis and Newport. It is supposed to straighten the winding road, shortening the trip by 15 minutes and making the drive safer.

A year ago, ODOT project manager Joe Squire explained to KATU how a series of road columns had to be torn out because the land under them continued to move.

Today, Squire said ODOT and the California-based contractor can't agree about the extent of the landslide issues under the road. They also disagree about what was disclosed from the beginning.

"We identified several areas inside the project area that were suspect to us," he said.

Squire said it's ultimately the builder's responsibility to fix the problem because its original bid was to design and build the highway.

"As such they have certain duties and [they must] provide a design that mitigates against those types of movements," Squire said.

As the arguments continue, people who live in the area said they don't care who is at fault. They simply want their road finished.

"The problem isn't going to get better and it's not going to get cheaper," said neighbor Bob Rudel.

ODOT insiders tell KATU that work might not start up again until next summer and might not finish until 2014.

KATU wanted to speak with the builder, but their contract says they are not allowed to speak about the project without permission from ODOT.