ODOT outpost at Flora might close

By Chris Baxter, The Observer June 22, 2012 01:45 pm

 

By Katy Nesbitt

The Observer

Winter travel in Wallowa County will become more difficult if a remote Northeast Oregon highway maintenance station is shut down.

The Oregon Department of  Transportation outpost at Flora is being studied for closure as part of $132 million in budget cuts statewide.

Region 5, which covers one-third of the state and hundreds of rural miles, needs to trim about $1.76 million in the 2013-2015 biennium, said Wallowa County Commissioner Mike Hayward.

Closing the Flora Station that services remote Highway 3 from Enterprise to the Washington state line would save $140,000 a year.

The two highway workers who live and work out of Flora would be moved to Enterprise as would some of the equipment, said Hayward.

The big cost of running the Flora maintenance station is that it has no power; it’s the cost of running the generator that is cost prohibitive, said Hayward. At minimum, the department would keep a sand shed and a loader at the station 34 miles north of Enterprise.

Hayward said the short-term plan would be to not sell the 2.5-acre site, winterize the two homes and see how it goes.

Oregon Department of Transportation runs two shifts a day and the two highway workers stationed in Flora cover four days a week combined, the rest of the coverage comes out of Enterprise, said Hayward.

The cost-saving measures would save jobs, but could slow traffic during winter storms. Highway 3 is also plagued with falling rock, especially through the Rattlesnake Grade that winds sharply down to the Grande Ronde River and back up to the state line.

Hayward said two meetings have been scheduled for June 25. The first will be at the Hurricane Creek Grange on Hurricane Creek Road between Enterprise and Joseph at 8 a.m. The second will be at the Northside Grange in Flora at 11 a.m.

Declining Transportation Department revenues from the gas tax are to blame for the cuts.

Hayward said, “People are driving less or using more fuel efficient vehicles.”

A local log hauler, Tim Gilbert, told Hayward that there are approximately 3,200 to 3,600 truck trips on Highway 3 per year.