WEST SALEM — The Doaks Ferry Road realignment projects are on hold after geological testing showed landslides north of Highway 22 near the proposed route are moving.
The project is part of an Oregon Department of Transportation plan to improve safety on Highway 22, particularly high-crash areas like Doaks Ferry Road and the Highway 51 intersection. Plans include building backage roads and eventually an interchange at the intersection of highways 22 and 51.
Polk County and ODOT reached an agreement last year to have the county build the first phase of the project, a backage road from Doaks Ferry to Riggs Street, with money provided by the state.
County officials say that project is in limbo after landslide movement was found on the second phase, from Riggs Street to 50th Avenue, which was to be completed by ODOT.
ODOT spokesman Lou Torres said the issue was discovered earlier this year following core drilling that was part of the development stage of the project. He said a general footprint for the route had been selected, but a final design was not complete.
“They discussed this with us a month ago and we came away with the expectation that they were going to place the project on hold and monitor the landslide for another year,” Polk County Public Works Director Todd Whitaker said.
Following an open house on June 26, county leaders walked away with the impression the project may have to go back to planning.
“Because of the analysis and findings that ODOT has found on their portion of their project, they are apprehensive of moving forward,” said County Administrator Greg Hansen.
Torres said ODOT is assessing the project and may propose a different route.
“Geologists are recommending a much more detailed and comprehensive geologic investigation be performed before doing any significant earthwork construction in the area in order to make sure that the work would not accelerate the landslide activity,” Torres said.
Regardless of the outcome of the larger project, Whitaker, Hansen and Polk County Commissioner Craig Pope would still like to see safety improvements at the Doaks Ferry intersection.
“If you look at the transportation study that was done way back, the first thing that was discussed was doing mitigation at the Doaks Ferry intersection itself, (making it) a right in, right out only,” Hansen said. “That got skipped because the money became available for our project.”
Whitaker added he will push to have the former safety corridor on Highway 22 be restored. The section of the highway from the bridges crossing the Willamette River in Salem to the Rickreall interchange was a safety corridor from 1993 to 2010.
“The purpose of a safety corridor is education and enforcement until safety improvements can be made,” he said.
Pope added improvements have been discussed for several years and he would like to see at least left turns from Doaks Ferry onto the highway prohibited.
“That is an extremely dangerous intersection,” Pope said.
Torres said ODOT agrees, said but it’s too early to tell if funding ready for the first and second phases of the realignment project could be redirected to intersection safety improvements.
In the meantime, the agency’s staff will investigate the right in, right out option, a median barrier or other solutions, he said.
“ODOT is committed to improving safety on that stretch of (Highway) 22, especially taking a look at ways to improve the Doaks Ferry Road/(Highway) 22 intersection, and other areas along (Highway) 22 that have been identified as high-crash sites,” he said.