Ross Point slide work nears end

After a year’s delay, the state Department of Transportation last week selected a contractor to do the final phase of landslide prevention work on Ross Point.

Starting soon after July 4, the contractor, Olympia-based Wilder Construction, will start work on the final phase of what has become a 12-year process of securing Ross Point’s landslide-prone hillsides.

The areas left are low-priority — mostly the spaces between previously buttressed sections. However, the department wanted to wrap up the project, which has been under way since 1992.

“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 project has been on hold since last year, when nesting eagles made it impossible for DOT to start work in June as planned. Technically, the department crews could have started work after Aug. 15 — the end of the bald eagle nesting season — and pushed to get the nine-week project done before the rains started. However, that fell through because the proposed detour route up Port Orchard Boulevard was supposed to be be torn up starting in late August so Port Orchard’s public works department could install a new sewer main.

The sewer main project was also pushed back to this year and is now under way, but the city plans to have the pipe laid before work on Ross Point begins.

Technically, the eagles are still there — officials found two nesting pairs at the western end of Ross Point. However, this year the crews will be able to work around them by delaying construction on the western slide area until after the eagle chicks have left the nest. The eastern sections will be able to be done without impacting the birds.

The crews plan to buttress the last three sections of hillside in the same manner as the other sections. Although the covering of chunky rock may not look like the most stable surface to passing motorists, DOT officials said the method has proved very effective.

The most notorious sliders on Ross Point were systematically buttressed between 1992 and 2000 in a multi-phase process. Lowell said all slide areas that have buttressing — even the ones buttressed nearly 10 years ago — have stayed put since then.

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

The $7.5 million originally budgeted for Ross Point slide repairs in 1992 — paid for by the state and federal government — 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 temporary fixes.

This, the final phase of the project, was estimated to cost approximately $4.5 million — a price nearly equal to the cost of all previous Ross Point slide projects combined. Wilder Construction gave DOT a low-bid estimate of $3.2 million, well within the project’s budget.

“It’ll be a lot more work than we’ve done on Ross Point before,” explained DOT spokeswoman Amity Trowbridge.

Because of the intensity of the work — trucks will be removing thousands of cubic yards of soil and other hill material and replacing it with a thick layer of rock — Bay Street will be closed between Port Orchard Boulevard and State Route 16 for the duration of the project, which is expected to last until Labor Day weekend.

DOT has agreed to shut down construction for 11 days in August to accommodate the Cruz Car Show and Festival by the Bay.

“We take into account the needs of the local community,” said project manager John McNutt.

To that end, DOT will also be paying to list the names of all businesses along the closed portion of Bay on the detour signs at either end. The signs will tell potential customers how to get to the businesses via the local access rights-of-way left open while construction is underway.

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