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Sweet Creek Road Under Maintenance

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By Alysha Webb-Pigg for Eugene Daily News

Amidst a decade of historic natural disasters, the Pacific Northwest has been somewhat of a safe heaven. There are relatively few major storms in the winter and no known major Earth Quakes have struck the region since 1700.

However in Mapleton, Oregon, a Lane County community, located around 45 miles outside of Eugene, heavy rains have caused enough damage to effect the safety and convenience of residents and passerby’s.

Sweet Creek Road is located 2 miles south of Mapleton along the East side of the Siuslaw River. The Road was built in 1896 and has since fallen victim to heavy rainstorms and washouts, the erosion of soil or grave due to heavy floods or downpours.

These washouts have disabled use of Sweet Creek Road to the 650 vehicles that use it daily, according to David Brown, Construction Service Manager for the Lane County Public Works Department.

Additionally, Brown says Sweet Creek Road “is a vital transportation link between State Route 126 and large tracts of public and private forest lands, including 30,000 acres of National Forest System Lands where approximately 5 million board feet of timber is harvested annually.  The road also provides the only all-season access route to 68 homes.”

Taking the major need for the road into account, the Lane County Public Works Department decided it was time to replace the failing retaining wall after undergoing a study in 2006. The original wall was constructed in the early 1970’s, nearly half of a century ago.

A view of some of the houses in Mapleton, Oregon, a community that lies on a river that causes flooding and dangers to travelers.

The construction preparation process was extensive.

“After the 2006 study, Lane County proceeded with securing funding. The study included a recommended design and construction cost estimate.  This was instrumental in seeking funding.  We received a $5.6 Million grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Western Federal Lands High Division (WFLHD) in 2010,” says Brown.

After selecting OBEC Consulting Engineers as the pioneering engineers, “The project was bid in June 2012.  The design, review and bidding process took approximately 18 months to complete,” Brown adds.

The construction on the new wall began in July of 2012 and is expected to be complete as of April or May 2013. With a history of washouts during the winter, Brown says “There are more potential of slides or additional roadway failures (during the winter).  Part of our work is required to be done in the fall/winter months due to environmental permitting issues.”

Although the wall retaining project took extensive planning, changes have been made throughout the planning process.

According to Brown, “The project started out as one 243 foot long concrete bridge with two tieback retaining walls on each end of the bridge totaling 908 feet.  However, due to unknown underground site conditions, all but 40 feet of the wall was eliminated and the bridge was expanded to 1,130 feet.  As a result the bridge is a bridge over land as it does not pass over a body of water, other than small streams.”

Sweet Creek Road is currently under construction to improve commuter and road safety. Photo courtesy of Lane County.

With the project being so large, Lane County Public Works has at least 12 additional organizations, businesses, and city groups taking part in the new construction. Some of these groups include Heritage Resources (Eugene) Archaeology & Historical Research, Mapleton School District, Foundation Engineering, Inc. (Corvallis), Geotechnical Engineers, and the Lane County Board of Commissioners.

“The total cost will be approximately $6.3 Million.  The cost includes Design Engineering, Construction, and Construction Administration,” says Brown.

Although Sweet Creek Road has proven to be risky, Brown is happy to report that there have been “No known injures due to the roadway failure.  There also have been no on the job accidents during the 5 months of construction.”

The last documented road failure was in 2012.

In order to keep a clean record of injuries with the new construction being done on Sweet Creek Road, Brown says it is important for the public to “Continue to monitor the onsite message boards for upcoming nighttime closures and please be patient and use caution when driving through the construction work zone.”

While construction of the new bridge and wall is scheduled for completion in Spring of 2013, the road will only temporarily close when it is being worked on. Dates of closures will be informed to the public so they can access Mapleton and the surrounding area through other routes. If the road is open, it will be monitored and directed by road crews to ensure commuter safety.

And, with Brown heading the construction effort of the site, everything should go according to plan. The result will be a much safer road that will facilitate better commuting to and from Mapleton.

“The Lane County staff I have the pleasure of working with every day,” explains Brown about his favorite part of working for Lane County. “They are very professional and as a result I have thoroughly enjoyed my tenure at the County.  Also, construction is a very dynamic industry, no two days are the same and I love the variety.”

For information updates the public can call the project hotline at 1.855.263.9169.

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