Construction to close La Grande on-ramp

By Kelly Ducote, The Observer April 04, 2014 10:52 am

Construction to close La Grande on-ramp. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Construction to close La Grande on-ramp. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

Bicyclists prohibited from riding on interstate during construction 

The westernmost on-ramp for Interstate 84 in La Grande will soon close for the construction season.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials say the westbound on-ramp at exit 259 is expected to close April 21 through the fall.

The closure is due to the ongoing, multi-year freeway improvement project between the Second Street undercrossing in La Grande and the Kamela interchange at exit 246. The project began last year and includes resurfacing the left lane with new asphalt, placing concrete in the right lane, replacing median barriers, repairing bridges, improving chain-up areas and constructing a westbound truck climbing lane along the Spring Creek grade.

“Because the freeways will be reduced to a single lane of travel to accommodate improvements to the westbound truck chain-up area near the Union County Fairgrounds, there won’t be enough room for traffic to safely merge from the exit 259 westbound on-ramp,” said Ken Patterson, ODOT project leader. “We’ll need to close this on-ramp during the 2014 and 2015 construction seasons.”

Because of the construction, bicyclists will not be permitted on the freeway between milepost 252, near Hilgard State Park, and exit 261. Cyclists should ride an alternate route via Highway 204 or Highway 82, or ride the free transit shuttle between

the Arrowhead Truck Stop east of Pendleton and the La Grande Transit Center near exit 261. Bicycle detour information will be posted on the ODOT website at www.tinyurl.com/odot-region5.

 

At the end of this construction season, drivers can expect newly paved lanes and upgraded median barriers.

 

"What they'll be working on this year is the paving upgrades," said ODOT spokesperson Tom Strandberg. "My understanding it they'll have those completed this year."

Concrete in the slow lane and asphalt in the fast lane is what Strandberg called a "black and white" highway.

 

"It's much more durable than just the asphalt," he said.

 

Construction of a third westbound lane is also part of the $43 million project. Completion of the third lane will likely not occur until the end of the next construction season.

 

"The 6-percent Spring Creek grade is a historical bottle next on the freeway due to the slow speeds of commercial vehicles climbing the hill," Patterson said. "During winter weather, frequent spin outs have resulted in freeway closures that can take several hours to clear up.

 

The new third travel lane will help alleviate some of these issues and keep traffic moving."

 

New and extended chain-up areas part of the project will be located near milepost 253.3  and milepost 249. If funding allows, illumination will be added to several of the chain-up areas, according to ODOT.