Highway construction activities are continuing along Interstate 84 between Pendleton and La Grande as the Oregon Department of Transportation’s $15 million Snow Zone Safety Improvement Project progresses.
Contractors are working on one of the most challenging aspects of the project as they cut through the westbound freeway shoulder to install electrical conduit from the power source near mile post 217 to the top of Cabbage Hill and beyond. Because this work zone is along the steep, curvy 6-percent grade, lanes will be narrowed to one westbound lane and at the top of the hill near mile point 223.5, well ahead of the current work area near mile post 219.
“Travelers are asking why the westbound lane restriction and reduced speed starts miles ahead of the actual construction activities,” said ODOT Project Manager Petr Lovasik. “The simple answer is ‘safety.’ It is extremely dangerous to merge traffic along a downhill grade like Cabbage Hill with its sharp curves and steep drop-offs. We can’t have cars and commercial trucks passing each other down the hill, then expect them to merge safely into one lane. The laws of physics and human nature suggest that could lead to disaster.”
Motorists are encouraged to plan extra travel time, be patient and slow down through this area.
As the trenching moves up the hill, the work zone will become shorter. ODOT expects to finish placing the conduit and patching the shoulders late August – mid September. Construction activities (illumination installation, overhead sign foundations) and westbound lane restriction will continue through October between mile points 220 and 223 on Cabbage Hill, and additional sites between there and La Grande. We’ll resume next spring and complete all the work by the end of 2020.
“The final project will provide you with real time information about road and weather conditions, and a safer commute, especially during the wintertime,” Lovasik said. “New digital freeway message boards, weather sensors, cameras, lighting, cable barriers and other enhancements installed at various locations between Cabbage Hill and La Grande are all part of the project. Getting power to these new features is the first step and that’s what we’re working on now.”
The project is currently funded at $11 million, with $4 million allocated from the 2017 Keep Oregon Moving Transportation Bill. For more details check out the project web site.