Taking a step back to move forward on Highway 20

Taking a step back to move forward on Highway 20

EDDYVILLE, Ore. -- Explosions echoed through the valleys near Eddyville on Monday as crews took a step backward by demolishing a bridge project in order to move forward on the Highway 20 reconstruction effort.

The highway project is located between Corvallis and Newport.

It is supposed to straighten the winding road, making the drive safer and shorten drivetimes by 15 minutes by cutting a 10 mile stretch of highway down to 5.5 miles.

In 2005, the Oregon Department of Transportation hired Design Build as a contractor for the project.

After completing construction of the bridge supports (also called bents) for two bridges, engineers realized that ground movement had caused their work to shift.

Rick Little, a spokesperson for ODOT, said that the ground shifts caused a dispute between the two parties over who was responsible. 

"At that point the design builder and ODOT entered into a dispute over who was responsible for the additional cost, the lay of the project … so on and so forth." Little said.

The dispute set back the construction project a few years and millions of dollars. 

In May, Design Builder was released from the Highway 20 project contract and agreed to pay ODOT $15,000,000. ODOT took over control of the project and set to work replacing the shifting bents with engineered fills and supports.

On Monday crews set to work demolishing the bridge supports at the third of four sites that experienced ground movement. Assistant Project Manager Jaime Viramontes said that they plan to retrofit the area to combat the shifting soil.

"It is going to be replaced by culvert and fill dirt, up to the level of the new grade of road," said Viramontes.

VIramontes said he expects that phase two of the project - construction of the bridges - is expected to get underway next summer. Officials predict the new roadway will be complete in 2015.

In a release on the project ODOT said that the rew stretch of Highway 20 has numerous benifits.

The new road is projected to cut drivetimes by 15 minutes, allow commercial trucks to access Toledo, Ore. (a Georgia Pacific hub), and make for a safer trip.

The corridor under reconstruction had a crash rate 60 percent higher than similar state highways, according to ODOT data.