MITCHELL - As recreational vehicles and semi trucks rumbled in the background, state and county employees and dignitaries celebrated the major renovation of Highway 26 between Mitchell and Picture Gorge.
The Oregon Department of Transportation completed a safety project from Antone Junction, about 12 miles east of Mitchell, to the John Day River near Picture Gorge. The project consisted of paving 17 miles of the highway and realigning a 2-mile stretch and constructing a climbing lane and slow-moving vehicle turnouts.
Pat Cimmiyotti, interim project manager from The Dalles, said during the Aug. 16 site tour that the $4 million project was completed in an amazingly short period of time. The contract was put out to bid in May 2001, and construction by Tidewater Contractors of Brookings started in July 2001. By Dec. 10, 2001, the work was finished.
Workers widened highway shoulders, and four sharp curves and three rockfall hazards were eliminated. The existing drainage systems were either modified or replaced, and the contractor upgraded guardrail sections to protect the ends of bridges. Roadway slopes that were eroded by an adjacent stream were repaired.
The original plan for the project was a cold mix overlay. Due to concerns raised from local agencies and local users of the highway, ODOT applied for and received an additional $3 million dollars in funding from the Federal Highway Administration's Public Highways program. Senator Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, was instrumental in obtaining the additional funds, according to Cimmiyotti.
The project provided several challenges to the development team that included the following:
2-mile realignment section - This eliminated three sharp reversing curves and two rock fall hazard areas and provides passing opportunities for slow-moving vehicles.
Improved the roadway drainage facilities - installed or modified 97 culvert pipes along the roadway.
Widened roadway shoulders and provided three emergency turnouts - This provided a safer roadway and offered areas for vehicles to use in case of an emergency.
Provided roadway slope protection from erosion - Roadway embankment slope was protected by using bio-engineering techniques in four areas that were constantly being eroded during high water from the creek that flows along length of the project.
Paved the scenic Mascall Overlook parking area to provide assistance to tourists visiting the site.