DOT starts first stages of last Ross Point project

The Washngton State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is currently collecting data on the Ross Point slide area as precursor to what will likely be the last slide-control project done on the area for a while.

The reason? The DOT is coming to the end of the $7.5 million originally budgeted for Ross Point slide repairs in 1992. The money, which came from both state and federal funding sources, was meant to be a one-time bulk sum. The idea was to deal with all of the slide area’s problems in one go, instead of spending a little every year on Band-Aid fixes.

“It’s important the funds are fully used,” said DOT spokeswoman Amity Trowbridge.

This last phase of construction will target the less-vital areas of the two-mile-long slope — largely the spaces between previously buttressed sections. Last week, DOT crews drilled test holes in these areas and installed monitoring equipment to measure and track the movement of the slope. This data will then be used in the design of a possible solution.

“That area in there is one ongoing landslide,” said DOT geotech Steve Lowell. “We’ve taken care of the most active ones. Now, we’re just going down the list.”

The most notorious sliders on Ross Point were systematically buttressed between 1992 and 2000, largely through the installation of chunky rock covers intended to help hold the hillside in place. Lowell said all slide areas which have buttressing — even the ones buttressed nearly 10 years ago — have stayed put. He also said the sections which are part of this upcoming project have remained relatively inactive and have not posed a serious landslide threat.

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job with the areas that were falling down on the highway,” Lowell said.

He said the reason WSDOT has chosen to parcel repairs out over more than 10 years has mostly to do with the nature of the project. Because landslide areas are unstable by definition, doing the whole area at once was simply not an option.

“You’d have everything down around your neck,” Lowell said.

Although a project design has yet to be drafted, WSDOT officials expect the work to cost approximately $4.5 million. Although the price is nearly equal to the cost of all previous Ross Point slide projects combined, Trowbridge said this was to be expected.

“It’ll be a lot more work than we’ve done on Ross Point before,” she said.

If there is any money left over, Trowbridge expects it will be spent on design proposals for other, lowest-priority areas. She said this would allow WSDOT to get a jump on future projects if funding ever became available.

Construction is expected to start in summer 2003.

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