BEND, OR -- There are fewer local highway projects tying up traffic than in recent years. "It’s not a busy year for us," says Peter Murphy, with the Oregon Department of Transportation, "The rest of the state is maybe a little different than here in Central Oregon." He tells KBND News, "We have projects coming up next year, but we don’t have the same number of big projects that we’ve had before this particular year. It’s a combination of factors, mostly having to do with budget."
Although, Murphy says just because contractors aren’t tearing up roads doesn’t mean the agency isn’t working. "Our planners and highway engineers are busy all the time looking at different possible projects that take place. The one at Tom McCall roundabout on Highway 126 is something that isn’t in construction right now, but we’re busy planning on it and making things happen. So, behind the scenes, a lot has to happen before those contractors get out on the job."
And, he says crews are still working major projects in the southern and western parts of Deschutes County. "We’ve got a pretty good sized project going on down by Wickiup Junction; and the Sisters project is $6 million when you look at it at the big picture of things, so that’s not a small project." The Sisters roundabout (pictured) is expected to wrap up before Memorial Day Weekend, so as not to interfere with the tourism season.
However, work at Wickiup Junction was temporarily suspended on Friday. Crews have been building a bridge to take Highway 97 traffic over the railroad tracks in La Pine. But, the $17 million project was halted after crews observed settlement within embankments adjacent to the new structure. ODOT officials hope to complete a preliminary investigation by June first, including reviewing geotechnical data and determining potential causes. They will then decide the next steps for the project. This is the second delay for the south county project. In August, a 173' beam fell from the structure as it was being put in place.