Brush Creek Channel

This is what a portion of Brush Creek’s new channel looks like in Ladd Canyon. The channel was created so that a portion of the creek could be diverted to allow work on the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Ladd Canyon Freight Improvement Project to be done.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has good news for motorists traveling through Ladd Canyon on Interstate 84.

Both I-84 eastbound lanes at the west entrance into Ladd Canyon are now open almost continuously from milepost 271 to 273 for the first time since last spring, ODOT has announced. 

The lanes were reopened this weekend as the first phase of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s $30 million Ladd Canyon Freight Improvement project, which began in April, nears completion. One eastbound lane at this site has been closed for much of that past six months to allow for construction work. 

Mike Remily of ODOT, manager of Ladd Canyon project, said that the opening of both lanes had been delayed by freezing weather. Remily explained that this has impacted the process of painting stripes on this portion of the freeway.

“Striping paint doesn’t dry very quickly when it’s cold,” Remily said in an ODOT news release.

Although both eastbound lanes from milepost 271 to 273 are now open, there may be some short closures of lanes over the next week to accommodate workers cleaning the roadway drainage system in preparation for winter, Remily said on Friday.

A reduced construction zone speed limit of 50 miles per hour remains in effect in the area despite the complete opening of both lanes, Remily said. He said that the reduced speed limit will be lifted later.

One lane of traffic is still closed in the westbound lanes of Ladd Canyon from milepost 271 to 273 because of work being done to install a channel for Brush Creek. The new channel is needed to make way for the addition of a third eastbound I-84 lane in 2020 that will run from the west entrance of Ladd Canyon east for 1.5 miles. 

Brush Creek has been an obstacle for ODOT because a portion of it ran along the area where the new lane will be built. ODOT is thus taking steps to move the lower part of Brush Creek’s channel to the north side of I-84’s two eastbound lanes. 

Remily said that one westbound lane between mileposts 271 and 273 will remain closed through Nov. 27 to allow for last-minute modifications to the new Brush Creek channel. 

Major portions of phase I of the Ladd Canyon Freight Improvement Project included the removal of the eastbound lane bridge near the entrance into Ladd Canyon and the replacement of it with a concrete box culvert. The culvert is large enough to accommodate log trucks and semi trucks. 

Replacing the bridge with a culvert is a big plus because the bridge tended to get icy, Remily said. Now the roadway where the bridge once was will be no more icy than the stretches of freeway running on either side of it.

“It will no longer be icy there and not anywhere else,” Remily said on Friday.

Bridges usually freeze first in cold conditions because they are sandwiched between cold air, Remily said. The adjacent roadway by contrast freezes later since only its top surface is exposed to frigid air and its bottom is insulated by soil. The new culvert will not get as icy as quickly because it has ground insulation. 

Phase II of the Ladd Canyon Freight Improvement Project, which will involve installation of the third eastbound lane between mileposts 271 and 273, is set to begin in April 2020. 

The expanded space the new lane will provide should reduce the number of times Ladd Canyon has to be closed due to trucks blocking lanes. 

In a previous Observer interview, ODOT spokesman Tom Strandberg explained that if a truck crashes in the future three-lane roadway, traffic will be able to move around it while it is being cleared. Truck drivers will be allowed to use only the inner and middle lanes while automobile drivers will be permitted to drive in all three, Strandberg said. The three-lane stretch will be similar to a westbound one near Spring Creek on I-84, which has been in place since 2015.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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