Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image

U.S. 26: Mill Creek to Warm Springs Grade

Project Information 

ODOT contracted with K&E Excavating to construct passing lanes, widen shoulders and eliminate a rockfall hazard along U.S. 26 west of Warm Springs, Oregon.  Work began in July and was completed fall 2013.
Location of the new passing lane east of Mill Creek on U.S. 26, looking east.
Location of new passing lanes east of Mill Cr. looking east.
Project Components
  • Construct passing lanes between Milepost (MP) 94.4 to MP 96.0.
  • Widen shoulders and flatten slopes between

    MP 91.7 to MP 91.9, MP 92.8 to MP 94.2 and MP 95.8 to MP 99.2.

  • Address the safety and function of three cattle underpasses.
  • Eliminate rockfall hazard near MP 102.

Project Location
The majority of the work associated with this project is located between the Mill Creek Bridge (MP 92.7) and the top of the Warm Springs Grade (MP 99.0).  A rockfall mitigation site located near MP 102, approximately one-half mile west of Warm Springs on the Warm Springs Grade is also included in the scope.
Vicinity Map                                                                                  Information Paper   

Purpose and need
An accumulation of rock in the ditchline in the rockfall mitigation area just west of Warm Springs.
Location of rockfall mitigation area west of Warm Spring.
U.S. 26 is a critical part of the state’s transportation system. The highway carries a high volume of freight and tourist traffic between Portland and central Oregon, and is designated as a state freight route.  Keeping roads in good condition and providing for safe travel are critical parts of the mission for the Oregon Department of Transportation.
In 2010, the average daily traffic through this section of highway was 4200 vehicles, of which approximately 23% were trucks.  Crash reports show that over the past 10 years there have been a total of 33 crashes reported within the section of highway between MP 92.7 to MP 99.0.  Four of those crashes resulted in fatalities.  Of the 33 crashes, 85% were lane departure crashes resulting in four fatalities and three severe injuries. In 2003, this section of highway had a fatality crash rate six times higher than the statewide average.
Currently there are sections of this highway with steep fill slopes at the edge of the paved shoulders, leaving little or no room for errant vehicles to recover or for disabled vehicles to safely pull off the highway.  ODOT passing lane guidelines suggest one mile of passing lane for every three to five miles of roadway, yet within this 28-mile section (MP 71 to MP 99) of the Warm Springs Highway within the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS) Reservation, there is currently only one set of passing lanes.  Due to the nature of the roadway, poor sight distance and an ever increasing volume of oncoming traffic throughout much of this two-lane highway, there are few opportunities to safely pass slow moving vehicles.
Region 4’s second highest priority rockfall area lies on the north side of the highway near MP 102.  Rocks (some very large boulders) continue to come down onto the roadway, most recently in July of 2011.  This area was also the site of a fatal accident where a vehicle struck a boulder.

What's being proposed
This project is part of a larger system of projects that will ultimately provide adequate safe passing opportunities along the 28-mile section of the Warm Springs Highway that currently has only one set of passing lanes.   Between MP 94.4 to MP 96.0 passing lanes will be constructed, which will increase safety by reducing the frequent, unsafe passing maneuvers that occur on this highway and continue to cause crashes that result in serious injuries and fatalities.  The passing lanes will also increase the capacity of the Warm Springs Highway.
The project will flatten embankment slopes and widen shoulders along the highway between MP 91.7 to MP 91.9, MP 92.8 to MP 94.2 and between MP 95.8 to MP 99.2.  This will provide recoverable slopes for errant vehicles and wider shoulders for disabled vehicles to pull off the highway. 
The project will also make improvements to, or otherwise provide further protection of three cattle underpasses which currently pose a clear-zone hazard to highway travelers. 
In the rockfall area, loose rock and other unstable materials will be removed from the hillside above the roadway. 

Traffic control

During construction in the summer of 2013, there will be single lane closures with traffic controlled by flaggers and pilot cars.  Motorists should expect some delay during most aspects of the work. 

Key Dates
Preliminary Design   Spring/Summer 2012
Final Design  January 2013 
Bid let  April 2013
Construction  Summer/Fall 2013

Estimated Project Cost
$4.97 million
This project is funded through ODOT Region 4 modernization and rockfall programs, federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funds, and federal Public Lands Highways Discretionary (PLHD) funds.

Email Address
Bob Townsend Project Manager
Butch Hansen
Area Manager
Rex Holloway  
Community Liaison