The western end of Ladd Canyon is set to lose a bridge and gain two major safety features.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is launching its $30 million Ladd Canyon Freight Improvement Project. Its centerpiece will be the addition of a 2.5-mile eastbound Interstate 84 lane. A second major component will be the replacement of a bridge with a culvert, said ODOT spokesman Tom Strandberg.

The new lane, to be added on the north side of the freeway, will be for cars only.

“It will be the fast lane,” Strandberg said.

Truck drivers will be allowed to use the two lanes already in place while drivers of cars will have the option of using any of the three lanes. The lane is intended to reduce congestion on the steep Ladd Canyon incline.

“It will help cars get around slow-moving trucks,” Strandberg said.

Another plus of the expanded space is it should reduce the number of times Ladd Canyon has to be closed due to truck accidents blocking traffic.

“We will be able to let traffic get around while everything is being cleared,” Strandberg said.

The removal of the bridge near the western entrance into Ladd Canyon, which motorists can use to get from the eastbound to the westbound lanes of I-84, and replacing it with a culvert will reduce the amount of ice drivers encounter.

“Replacing the bridge with a culvert) will reduce the accumulation of ice that currently plagues the overpass structure by providing an insulating layer of earth between the culvert and freeway surface above it,” Strandberg said.

The culvert will be easy to drive through.

“It will basically be a tunnel under the freeway,” Strandberg said.

ODOT’s plan also calls for the I-84 pavement from La Grande to Ladd Canyon to be upgraded.

“The project will create a safer, smoother, more efficient freeway and help reduce challenges that result from slow-moving commercial vehicles, slick roads and crashes,” Strandberg said.

See complete story in Friday's Observer