Highway project starts at Stony Point

Realignments and straightening to Stony Point on Territorial Highway is the first phase of the highway renovation project.

LORANE — Drivers will need to plan for a little extra time these days. The Lane County Territorial Highway Project has finally begun in earnest and is in its first phase. 

The realignment and straightening of the curves at Stony Point, about three miles north of town, is expected to continue through the summer and into the fall. The entire project involves the stretch of Territorial Highway lying between Gillespie Corners and the community of Lorane and will be done in four phases over the next three years. 

Stony Point is the most critical and urgent part of the project, so it comes first.

Historically, early roads in the area, built by the first white settlers, usually traversed the sides of foothills. This was done because of the better drain-off on the hillsides during wet weather. Since gravel was not used until later years, the dirt roads in the flatlands became quagmires during rainy periods and dusty in the summer.

The Stony Point section of Territorial Road took a different route before 1920. As the original road started to ascend, its route cut farther east and went through the properties at the top of the hill and came out just south of the entrance to Territorial Lane where it continued on to Lorane as it does today.

Stony Point’s route climbs the hill leading into Lorane. It is a series of sharp, sweeping curves. But for several decades now, the road bed on the then-state-owned highway began slipping in three places. 

ODOT arrived on an increasingly more frequent basis to fill it with more gravel and pavement, which in turn would once again slip off into the field below. The road is narrow and there were no shoulders going around those curves. The fog lines are right on the edges of downhill drop-offs on the west side and steep banks border the east side of the road.

Traffic has been increasing in the past 20 years, due to the popularity of our local wineries and access to the shortcut to the southbound I-5 freeway. The Territorial Highway has become a popular route for bicyclists, too, so when the State of Oregon agreed to trade the oversight of Territorial Highway to Lane County for Beltline Road in Eugene, the county put a priority on realigning the road for safety’s sake. A large grant was obtained for the project and June 2020 was set for it to begin.

According to Lane County’s summer 2020 project update, Phase One will soften the sharp curves of Stony Point and widen the road with shoulders and guardrails. The road will be stabilized to prevent future landslides and a retaining wall will be installed across the largest slide area. Flexible mesh (geotextile) material will be used to reinforce the soil. The new road will be built on top of the reinforced soil and the retaining wall.

During the construction, one lane of gravel road will be open for bidirectional travel and flaggers, pilot cars and temporary traffic signals will be used as needed. Lane County advises that bicyclists use alternative routes as the work zone will be steep and hard to navigate on a bicycle.

The county is hoping that Phase One will be completed by late fall 2020 so that Phase Two, between Gillespie Corners (where Lorane Highway meets Territorial Highway) and Easy Acres Drive, can begin on time next spring or summer in 2021. That section will address the frequent flooding we have during rainy winters that goes over the road as well as softening the curves in that area where accidents are common.

Phase Three, scheduled for 2022, will take out some of the sharp curves between Easy Acres Drive and Hamm Road and all phases will widen the road considerably with wide shoulders.

The final phase will finish up between Stony Point and Cottage Grove-Lorane Road in 2023.

For those traveling in the area, please be aware that construction will be ongoing for quite some time and you should expect delays. And, most of all … please drive carefully. Help us keep our family, friends and neighbors safe during this time.

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