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Southwest Oregon Culverts (U.S. 101 and Oregon 38)


Starting in 2015, the Oregon Department of Transportation will replace hundreds of culverts along Oregon 38 (Umpqua Highway) and U.S. 101 (Oregon Coast Highway) in Douglas County and Coos County.
Many of the culverts are aging and damaged, requiring frequent maintenance to address drainage problems. The three-year pilot program, a joint effort of ODOT and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), is intended to improve drainage and fish passage along streams crossing under the highways.

Construction phases

The pilot program is comprised of several culvert projects that will bid and be constructed separately. The first phase, scheduled for summer and fall 2015, will involve small culverts that are relatively simple to replace or repair. During 2016 and 2017, most of the work will focus on small and medium-sized culverts, some of which are located deep below the highway and therefore require more work to replace. In 2017 and 2018, several large culverts will be replaced with bridges.

2015 (summer):
The OR38: Culvert & Fish Passage Upgrades project will Box-culvert-600x450.jpgreplace 5 culverts and repair 26 others along Oregon 38. Traffic impacts should be minimal. Each culvert replacement may take about 2-3 days, requiring 24-hour lane closures with flaggers and brief delays. Culvert repairs will require intermittent lane and shoulder closures.

2015 (fall): The U.S. 101: Culvert & Fish Passage Upgrades project will replace 15 culverts and repair four others along U.S. 101 between the Lane/Douglas County Line and North Bend. Replacements will require 24-hour lane closures with flaggers and brief delays. Culvert repairs will require intermittent lane and shoulder closures.

2016 (spring-summer): Two projects will bid for construction in the spring and summer. The OR 38: Culvert Upgrades project will replace 36 culverts and repair nine others on Oregon 38. The small culvert repairs and replacements will require intermittent lane closures and brief delays. Meanwhile, the OR38 Luder Creek project will replace the existing culvert at milepost 11.7 with a new bridge. At Luder Creek, traffic will be limited to a single lane for several months.
2016 (fall-winter): ODOT is working on preliminary plans to repair and replace more than 20 culverts on Oregon 38. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.
2017-18 small culverts: ODOT is tentatively scheduled to repair or replace several dozen small culverts on Oregon 38 and U.S. 101 in 2017 and 2018.
2017-18 large culverts: The final phase of the culvert pilot program will involve large culverts at 11 locations (some locations have more than one culvert). This phase is currently in design and some information may change.

The current plans call for replacing a box culvert with a bridge at two locations:

• Burchard Creek (Oregon 38, milepost 21.5),
• Grabb Creek (Oregon 38, milepost 25.1).

At five other locations, new box culverts will be installed:

• unnamed creek (Oregon 38, milepost 7.5),
• Hoagland Creek (Oregon 38, milepost 8.8),
• Scott Creek (Oregon 38, milepost 25.6),
• Green Creek (Oregon 38, milepost 41.9),
• Clear Creek (U.S. 101, milepost 221.1).

At Southport Slough (U.S. 101, milepost 244.1), the culverts under the northbound and southbound lanes will be replaced with a three-sided, bottomless structure similar to both a bridge and a culvert. The project will also remove the tidegate and address inundation upstream from the culvert.

At the final three locations, fish passage improvements will be made to the outlet of the Eel Creek culvert (U.S. 101, milepost 222.7) and to two culverts on Oregon 38 (milepost 6.54 and 6.97). These three culverts will not be replaced.

Construction and traffic impacts

Construction methods will vary depending on the size and condition of the culvert, its depth under the roadway, the local terrain and whether it is slated for repair or replacement.

Repairs to small culverts will have the least impact to travelers since they will not require the travel lanes to be dug up. These repairs will usually require intermittent shoulder and lane closures as workers replace the ends of the culverts or install liners inside the culverts. Lane closure 400x300.jpgEach culvert repair is expected to be completed in one or two days. Where several pipes are located close together, the contractor will likely address all the pipes within a single work zone.

Some small culverts will be replaced. At these locations, one lane and shoulder of the roadway will be closed and half the culvert dug up and replaced. Traffic will then be shifted and the second half of the culvert replaced. Once completed, the roadway will be repaved. Each replacement is expected to take 2-3 days.

This program will also replace several large culverts, some with new box culverts and others with bridges. The culvert at Luder Creek will be replaced with a bridge in 2016, and several new bridges will be constructed at other locations in 2017 and 2018. Construction at each bridge or large culvert site will require the highway to be limited to a single lane of traffic for several months. Traffic will be controlled by temporary signals at the larger sites and by flaggers at the small culverts. Delays are expected to be just a couple minutes at the small culverts and about 5 minutes at the larger sites.

This program will replace more than 150 culverts along Oregon 138 and U.S. 101 over the next few years. Although most delays will be fairly brief, the large number of culverts means that construction delays will be a frequent occurrence for many drivers.

Frequently asked questions

Q: How many culverts are you repairing or replacing?

A: There are nearly 700 culverts within the Oregon 38 and U.S. 101 project areas. Due to limited funding, this pilot program will only address the approximately 150 culverts that are rated as poor or in critical condition. Of those 150 culverts, about one-third will be repaired and the rest will be replaced.

Q: Where are these culverts located?

A: Of the 150 culverts, about two-thirds are on Oregon 38 and the remainder are located along U.S. 101 between the Lane/Douglas County Line (milepost 198) and the Oregon 42 junction (milepost 245).

Q: Why are you replacing so many culverts now?

A: Most of these culverts are aging or damaged, but they were not replaced in recent years due to environmental concerns and the cost of meeting state laws regarding fish passage. Last year, ODOT and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reached an agreement that will allow work to go forward.

According to an ODFW news release, the three-year pilot program will What problem 400x300.jpgmake it easier for ODOT to make short-term repairs to culverts within its highway system. In return for including site-specific improvements in fish passage where possible, ODOT will receive a temporary reprieve from the state’s fish passage requirements that often involve more costly repairs to provide full passage to native migratory fish.

Q: Why are there several different projects?

A: Due to the large number of culverts, it was not possible to include all culverts in a single project so the culverts were organized into smaller groups.

The construction schedule is largely dictated by design necessity. Bigger culverts are usually more complicated to replace and require more design time. Small culverts are easier to repair, which is why they are scheduled first.

In 2015, ODOT will focus on culvert repairs in the summer on Oregon 38, then along U.S. 101 in the fall. Culverts that will be a little more problematic and require more design time have been pushed out to 2016.

The most complicated projects will begin construction in 2017. These include box culverts that we are replacing, either with a bridge or another culvert, or small and medium-size culverts that have unique design issues or that may be buried deep under the roadway.

Q: Why don’t you repair or replace all of the culverts at the same time so you only impact one summer instead of three?

A: Because of the large number of culverts, there is not enough time to do them all in one season. And if we did  attempt to repair and replace all of them during one season, we would have to work at several locations at once, and traffic delays could easily exceed an hour on each corridor. We believe it is better to space them out. Tourists and commuters may be delayed on four consecutive summers, but the delays won’t be as long.

At most locations, traffic will only be delayed a couple of minutes. But there may be several work zones along a highway, and there could be a cumulative effect.

Q: Why don’t you do all of the Highway 38 culverts one year, and all of the Highway 101 culverts the next?

A: Traffic delays would be unbearable. We are repairing or replacing more than 100 culverts on Oregon 38, and trying to do all of them in one year would make the Umpqua Highway the longest parking lot in Oregon.

Q: Why didn’t you replace the culverts the last time you paved the highway?

A: We agree that the best time to replace a culvert is before scheduling a paving project. Unfortunately, we didn’t know five or ten years ago that ODOT and ODFW would reach an agreement that would allow us to move forward on these long-delayed culvert replacements.

Q: Will the ground settle after a new culvert is installed?

A: Although we will compact the soil as much as possible at each location, the ground may settle an inch or two the first couple of months after a culvert is replaced. In some areas, we will need to go back and level the asphalt to eliminate any bumps.

Q: How is this project being funded?

A: ODOT has funds specifically identified for culvert repairs and for fish passage. Those funds have been pooled from around the state and directed to this pilot program. 

Q: How does this project benefit the public?

A: Erosion is one of the most powerful forces on the planet, and good drainage is essential to protecting our roads. Many of these culverts are damaged or no longer functioning properly and eventually will fail, allowing water to erode the road fill. Repairing and replacing these culverts will help reduce maintenance costs and prevent washouts and slides.

The fish passage elements also benefit the local economy by making the area a more desirable place for tourists to visit and go fishing.

Project materials

• News release: ODOT, ODFW agree on plan to repair failing highway culverts, improve fish passage (Oct. 21, 2014)
Information sheet: OR38/U.S. 101 Culvert & Fish Passage Pilot Program (October 2015)
Slideshow: Southwest Oregon Culverts (June 2015)
Maps: All culverts included in 2015-18 pilot program (October 2016)
News release: Four-year pilot program to replace culverts on Oregon 38, U.S. 101 begins this summer (July 2, 2015)

Project updates

ODOT will provide news releases and weekly construction reports to the local media. Additional updates will be provided by e-mail. To request e-mail updates, contact: Dan.Latham@odot.state.or.us.
Information about road conditions and construction impacts can be found at www.tripcheck.com.

For more information

Dan Latham
ODOT Public Affairs
3500 NW Stewart Parkway
Roseburg, OR 97470
Phone: (541) 957-3601