Territorial Highway fixes slated next summer

Stony Point will be the first stretch of Territorial Highway to be reconstructed and realigned. Jen Blue/The Creswell Chronicle

In their first meeting with townspeople since 2017, Lane County Department of Works (LCDW) representatives were greeted by a packed house at Lorane Grange last week to discuss improving the 5.71 mile stretch of Territorial Highway that meanders – sometimes precariously – through the foothills from Gillespie Corners to Lorane.
Most people at the meeting on June 20 live or commute on this scenic route, and many of them have been pushing for highway improvements for years.
In the past 10 years alone, at least 40 crashes have occurred in the Stony Point section of Territorial, According to LCDW. Prior to these accidents, in 2006, there was a fatality involving a cyclist, Jane Higdon, and a passing log truck in 2006. The outcry following this accident was the final straw that spawned a movement to bring safety to this commuter corridor.
A critical freight route for through and local traffic, the highway provides essential access for rural residents. And with several wineries and bicycle enthusiasts, it has become a popular thoroughfare for recreation as well.
But this historic artery of transportation has not fared well over the years as a result of natural deterioration and erosion, combined with the removal of multiple rooted trees, flooding and an estimated load of 1,700 vehicles per day.
For years, community members persisted in a campaign to support Lane County in their ventures to acquire adequate funding to restore and improve the most dangerous sections of the highway.
With the passing of ”Keep Oregon Moving” House Bill 2017, the movement gathered momentum. That same year, Lane County Public Works applied for a financial TIGER Grant to fund their ”Share the Road” project to improve safety, connectivity and access for all modes of transport.
These developments opened the way for Lane County to take over maintenance and ownership from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). Phased maintenance is scheduled to begin in 2020 with four steps spanning to 2023 and the final transfer from ODOT.
Next summer, they’ll start with stabilizing the Stony Point section of the highway that is slowly buckling and sliding down the steep slope and off the edge.
”I think it’s going to be fantastic,” resident Trish Matchulat said. ”I am a little worried it will turn into a raceway, though.”
The steep turns traversing Stony Point will be realigned, stabilized and widened, but not completely straightened out. This will keep more natural landscape in place without allowing for traffic speeds to increase, according to LCDW.
The next phase will begin in 2021, raising and widening two bridges in the area of Gillespie Corners that is prone to flooding over the road in years past.
Beginning in 2022, the roadway between Easy Acres and Hamm Road will be completely reconstructed.
In 2023, crews will make their way to Lorane proper, reconstructing the highway from Stony Point to the Lorane Store at the Cottage Grove-Lorane intersection.
”We’ve known for years and years that something has to be done,” said Lorane resident Pat Edwards. ”I’m so glad the County took everything seriously and is doing something about it.”
Paul Moore, owner of Arriving by Bike in Eugene said, ”I rarely drive out here, but I’ve ridden over 100 bike rides [on Territorial Highway]. I really appreciate so many people coming together to solve things. The County and the property owners making a team effort to work together to make this safer. I hope overall it’s a win for everybody.”
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