ODOT Program Helps Hermiston Roads

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The Oregon Department of Transportation’s Emerging Small Business Program has paid off for Hermiston in the form of a new drain pipe under the roadway of N.W. 11th Street.

Elk Mountain Construction, Inc., located in Sandy, was awarded the $32,000 project that installed a drain pipe under the roadway, connecting a catch basin near Juanita Avenue on one side of the road to a drain field on the opposite side. The work also constructed a 100-foot-long gravel filled drainage ditch along the east edge of pavement near Division Avenue, plus other related work. Both areas are prone to high water during heavy rain.

The funding came from ODOT’s Emerging Small Business (ESB) contracting program, which helps smaller construction firms get the experience they need to eventually expand and compete for larger projects.

“The Emerging Small Business program was designed to create opportunities that help smaller contractors gain expertise on transportation related projects,” said ODOT Civil Rights Officer Feather Sams-Huesties. As the smaller firms improve and grow, they are able to bid on larger projects, creating a more competent and competitive pool of contractors.

“The end result is more competition and better bids on the state’s larger transportation projects, which helps ODOT do more with taxpayer funds.” Sams said.

With the new drain pipe installed in Hermiston, excess water will now flow under the road to a drainage swale on property owned by Good Shepherd Hospital. Gary Backanen of Elk Mountain Construction said his company has been ESB certified for about two or three years and that he is pleased with the contracting program.

“I’ve done about a half dozen ESB jobs (with ODOT),” said Backanen. “It’s been good for me.”

Elk Mountain Construction is just one of the over 2,300 ESB certified contractors in Oregon. Between 2015 and 2017 an estimated $3.3 million in ESB funds will be allocated towards transportation related projects, statewide.

“It’s a very successful program,” said Sams. “From 2011 to 2014 nearly $10 million was awarded for 220 different ESB contracts around the state. We even have a mentoring program that connects ESB firms with more experienced contractors.”

More Improvements Planned for Hermiston
Along with the ESB funded drainage work on OR 207, a separate project this summer is upgrading traffic signals along U.S. 395. Future projects in the Hermiston area include resurfacing U.S. 395 from U.S. 730 to 4th Street and adding two new traffic signals along OR 207, at Elm Avenue and Orchard Avenue in 2016. The city will also see a new bicycle/pedestrian path constructed near Highland Avenue in 2017.

“The new signals on OR 207 at Elm Avenue and Orchard Avenue will be a major help for motorists,” Hermiston Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan said of the project slated for construction next year. The new traffic signals will also expedite the movement of emergency service vehicles traveling to and from the nearby hospital and fire station.

“I think ODOT is going to be sick of Hermiston by the end of 2017,” Morgan said.

Not so, said Sams. “It’s very gratifying to see these projects get constructed and it’s good for the local economy.”