Road repair turns into bridge-building project

MAPLETON, Ore. - What started as work to replace a retaining wall turned into a bridge building project for Lane County Public Works.

The county and its contractor kept the project on track.

The end result:

The road got fixed, on budget and ahead of schedule.

And Lane County got the Project of the Year Award from the Oregon Chapter of the American Public Works Association.

The story started with a big crack in the road in January 2011.

The retaining wall that kept a stretch of Sweet Creek Road from falling into the Siuslaw River started to fail, and one lane of the road sunk.

That left 68 residents with one lane in or out of where they lived.

And it threatened access to tens of thousands of acres of prime public land rich in recreation and timber resources.

Work got started in August 2012 to repair the retaining wall, funded in large part by the Federal Highway Administration.

But survey work soon proved wrong: drilling that found bedrock had hit boulders instead. The actual bedrock depth was significantly deeper than expected.

"This was a difficult project that started out with a retaining wall replacement," said county engineer Bill Morgan, "and quickly became a bridge building project as we learned more about the site conditions."

The plan changed - but not the price tag. The final cost came in on budget.

And for the people who used the road, the county and contractor worked together to avoid total closure of the road.

"This was a project where, despite the challenges, our general contractor West Coast Contractors and OBEC did everything they could to minimize costs and disruption. This is a great example of working together to develop better solutions to fix our roads," said county engineer Bill Morgan. "We are pleased to share this award with our partners."