LA PINE, OR -- The Oregon Department of Transportation continues to face criticism for problems at the Wickiup Junction overcrossing project. Work was halted in May after engineers discovered the land under the ramps leading to the new bridge was settling at an alarming rate. Specialists later determined the structure was being built on top of an ancient lake. The state has so far spent $13 million on the project, which was supposed to take Highway 97 over the railroad tracks near La Pine. Click HERE to visit ODOT's project website.
ODOT’s Peter Murphy says engineers could not have known the site would be so unpredictable. "The protocols that we operate by – nowhere in the state does it suggest you drill to 250 feet. If you take a look at a football field, that’s how far down you’d go. So, it wasn’t on our radar to go that far down. Our general operating principal said ‘drill to here.’ OK; we did." Murphy tells KBND News the skeletons of microscopic organisms were found in the soil, causing the ground to shift unpredictably. "A lot of people have heard of Diatomaceous Earth; it’s not uncommon. But, the difference between that product and what we found was that the skeletons were still whole; they weren’t collapsed. So, you start adding pressure – weight – on to those products – the skeletons – and that’s the collapse-factor."
Murphy says ODOT is now looking at all its options, "It’s been interesting because a lot of people do call me, for instance, and say, ‘this is what you ought to do.’ And, that’s actually helpful, because then you have more brains on it and we’re all trying to figure out what the next step forward should be." Oregon’s Transportation Commission
meets Thursday to discuss the project's future, "We’ll have to wait and see what some people have to say. You know, there’s a whole range of opportunities that may exist out there." According to Murphy, they could vote to decommission the site or find a way to re-engineer the design so it can move forward. "We may not have an answer this Thursday to that question. So, here we sit with a very visible, big product that didn’t work the way we planned it to. Okay; so, what’s the next best thing? Alright, let’s figure out what the ‘next best thing’ is."
for our full conversation with ODOT's Peter Murphy, or visit our Podcast Page