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U.S. 101 Bicyclist's concern

The Concern

On Thursday, August 22, 2013, Portland area bicyclist, Jeff Smith, contacted ODOT to express concern and dissatisfaction regarding the pavement condition he experienced on a ride between Yachats and Florence.

The photo he provided showed the results of a pavement overlay project from 2011, where the overlaid pavement covered only part of the southbound shoulder.  This created two separate profiles within the shoulder, and a seam that Smith and other bicyclists needed to avoid. 

In the email, Smith said:

"I'm not going to explain to you why this is, from a cyclists' perspective, extremely annoying at best and dangerous at worst because I'm sure you know.  If your ODoT colleagues who are responsible for overseeing the paving work do not understand why this is a abhorrant practice, I'll leave it to you to enlighten them. 
I am gobsmacked by how unutterably inept this paving work is on the part of ODoT.  This is not a low traffic, low cyclist use roadway.  This is the Oregon Coast Highway; it has heavy summer traffic, and many people come from all around the U.S. and the world to bicycle along it.  Travel Oregon promotes it a premier cycling destination.  The Oregon State Parks are some of the finest anywhere, with excellent hiker/biker campsites. The magical reputation of bicycling the Oregon Coast Highway precedes it, but after experiencing this I wonder how many riders come away with the feeling that it's been completely over-hyped and under-served.
For my part, I'm tempted to conclude that ODoT hasn't given an iota of thought or attention to the needs of Coast cyclists since the Oregon Coast Bike Route signs went up some 30+ years ago."
Within 24 hours, Smith's email and photo had been Tweeted, re-Tweeted, and had become the focus on a popular Portland bicycle blog http://bikeportland.org/
It had also become the subject of lively email exchanges between bicycle activists, enthusiasts and other interested people.


ODOT's Action

Within hours of receiving Mr. Smith's email, ODOT Region 2 Manager Sonny Chickering instructed District 5 managers to evaluate the pavement issue and respond with options for resolving the issue.

He also sent word to those who had received the original email that they could expect an update by mid-week, the following week.

On August 28, Chickering responded to the original email with the following response:
"Mr. Smith, Mr. Dennis, Mr. Maus and others,
Thank you for allowing me time to confer with my managers, and to gather information about the US 101 shoulder conditions you shared with ODOT on August 22. 
At my direction, District 5 (Lane County) Manager David Warren has personally inspected the segment of US 101 in question, and provided me with an assessment of the existing shoulder conditions.  Most notably, we have confirmed that the pavement surface along the shoulders is not uniform in appearance or texture (see attached photographs), the result of various surface treatments applied to the highway over the years.

Application of new paving courses or surface treatments, whether fully contracted out or installed by internal ODOT maintenance forces, is required to be implemented in accordance with the ODOT Pavement Design Guide  http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/CONSTRUCTION/docs/pavement/pavement_design_guide.pdf,
 A review of our records indicates the paving of concern was constructed during the summer of 2011, about the same time that the revised Pavement Design Guide was approved (April), and published (August).  Regrettably, the 2011 paving project was not completed in accordance with the standards contained in the new policy. 
For example, your photograph shows a seam where the pavement overlay was continued past the fog line and approximately half-way into the shoulder area.  Such a practice was considered acceptable as a cost saving measure by ODOT until April, 2011 when, based on considerations for bicycle safety, the policy was changed.  The policy now specifies that, with limited exceptions, the pavement overlay shall extend across the entire shoulder.  (Please see attached photos of paving work currently underway on US 101 near Lincoln City).

Mr. Warren has identified the length and locations of the nonconforming work, and is working with the ODOT Office of Maintenance, and the ODOT Construction Unit to identify options for short term repairs until an already scheduled repaving project in 2015.  These repairs would likely involve repaving of the shoulders so that a smooth and uniform surface is available to non-motorized modes of travel.  Cost of the work is still to be determined based upon the continuing discussions.  My intent is to make a decision soon so that if affordable, the work could be completed before the end of this summer.
Thank you again for sharing your concerns with me.  As you pointed out, ODOT has made a concerted and very public commitment to providing a transportation system that accommodates and encourages the use of all transportation modes.  Correction of the nonconforming work in this section of US 101 will be a significant step toward achieving that goal.
I will provide you with another update on our progress by the middle of next week." 

Update #2  Good progress repaving shoulders

Fast progress was made beginning repaving the highway shoulders in question, beginning on September 4.

ODOT Region 2 Manager, Sonny Chickering, offered a second progress report on September 6, 2013.


"Mr. Smith, Mr. Dennis, Mr. Maus and others,
I am pleased to report that we have made significant progress regarding the shoulder paving issue on US 101 in Lane County.
At the time of my last update, District 5 Manager David Warren was consulting with the ODOT Office of Maintenance, and the ODOT Construction Unit to identify options for short term repairs until an already scheduled repaving project in 2015.  As a result of those discussions, I have since approved a project to repave the highway shoulders that were incorrectly constructed in 2011. 
With the coastal construction season coming to an end due to weather, Mr. Warren has rapidly assembled a crew composed of this Region’s most skilled employees and equipment, supplemented with machinery and personnel contracted from North Santiam Paving of Stayton, Oregon.  Work commenced on September 4th, and in a single day of construction, they were able to repave about half of the shoulder identified as nonconforming.
At our current rate of production, we will be able to complete the remaining repaving in a single day.  Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate Thursday, so no work could be performed due to rain.  Once the current storm passes and a sufficient window of dry, warm weather arrives, we will resume and complete the work including re-striping of the fog lines.  Our goal is to complete the project no later than Friday September 13th. 
Thank you for your continuing patience as we construct and complete this important project.  I will provide you with another update on our progress by the end of next week."

Update #3  Project Completion

On Friday, September 13, ODOT Region 2 Manager, Sonny Chickering, informed the bicycle advocates and others that the shoulder improvements had been completed.  He attached photos to illustrate how the shoulders had been improved.

"Mr. Smith, Mr. Dennis, Mr. Maus and others,
I am writing to confirm that our project to repave non-conforming shoulder surfaces along US 101 in Lane County is now complete!  Following wet weather on Sept. 5th, our crew returned to the site and completed paving operations on Friday, September 6th.   Impacted fog lines were re-striped on Monday, September 9th.
Due to the aggressive schedule developed by District 5 Manager David Warren and District 3 Manager Don Jordan, these improved shoulders were available for riders participating in the Amgen People’s Coast Classic Bicycle Tour, which got underway on September 8th, and will benefit non-motorized modes of travel along this stretch of US 101 for the next two years. 

As mentioned in prior messages, ODOT has already programmed a major paving project on a 17 mile segment of US 101 between the Lane County line and Sutton Lake (just north of Florence) for construction in 2015.  You can learn more about that project on the ODOT website:
As with similar projects now underway in Lincoln County, the 2015 paving will be completed from shoulder edge to shoulder edge.
Once again, I’d like to thank you for bringing this problem to my attention and for your patience as my staff and I developed and implemented an affordable, short term solution.  I hope this experience demonstrates that ODOT is committed to providing a transportation system that accommodates and encourages the use of all transportation modes, and to working with you to resolve issues affecting the bicycling community."

Paving Policy

Concerns about bicycling safety have influenced ODOT paving policy over the years.  

In 2011, a policy was enacted that specified that pavement overlays on most major highways would cover the complete shoulder.  There are limited exceptions as you can read in the policy document on highway surfaces and shoulders.