Update on Currently Closed Loop Road


CMCA has been contacted by Liane Welch, Director of Tillamook County Public Works, regarding the currently closed Loop Road.  She is asking for feedback from the community regarding next steps.  Below is the latest information regarding where things now stand.

  • Federal Highways (FHWA) has sent a letter to Tillamook County Public Works stating that they are choosing the deep patch $2.5 million solution to the Cape Meares Loop Road closure due to the landslide.
  • FHWA suggested that Public Works take the $2.5 million and not implement the deep patch, and instead use it for design and look for other sources of financing. They also suggested Public Works “sharpen their pencils” in the $18 million estimate to build a new road.
  • Board of Commissioners signed a contract last week with Tillamook County engineers for about $32,000 to take a look at road alternatives and “sharpen their pencils” on the costs.
  • Public Works will be applying for a Federal Lands Access Program grant for $4 million as part of putting together a funding package for this project to build a new road.
Earlier this year residents were asked to respond to a survey regarding a proposal from Public Works to fix the Loop Road.  Click on the link below to view the results from the survey that was completed.http://tinyurl.com/ne3drg6Chris Spence was invited to attend a special meeting called by the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, December 3.  There were about 15 people in attendance.  Chris was the only person invited from Cape Meares.  Below are notes he prepared following the meeting that will add to the discussion.
From Chris Spence======
Here are my notes from the meeting:
  • As you know, the feds have offered up the amount for the $2.5 million “Deep Patch.”  However, not even the feds think doing that patch is a good idea, so they have offered that amount into the pot to do the 1b option that the county prefers.
  • But – they want the cost reduced. At the initial stage of costing these projects, all options, contain a 30% contingency. This is logical. As one road staff put it – “we have a project this big (holding out his arms), and we have this much information (holding up two fingers with small space between them).” Typically, the contingency percentage is reduced as information becomes more solid. Hence the request to spend another $32K on engineering to fill the information gap.
  • A preliminary report on that engineering hit Liane’s desk Tuesday night. On first read, modifications to 1b indicate the cost could drop to $11.9 million. This is achieved by lengthening the road along topo lines to reduce retaining walls – the initial 1b spent $6 million on retaining walls and covered 15 acres, while the revisions cover 23 acres, but spend only $2 million on retaining walls. Clearly the design, and thus the cost, is a work in progress.
  • Then the discussion turned to funding sources. With the $2.5 million from the feds, and the $4 million from the Federal Access Lands Program (FLAP), they are one-half the way there. I’m sure I did not “get” all the discussion as to other additional funding options as there were a lot of unfamiliar terms floating around. The FLAP grant involves partnering with the USFW. They are amenable – they are the agent in charge of the lighthouse, and have recently spent $500 K on infrastructure improvements up there, while seeing attendance figures drop with the road closure. The USFW rep Roy Lowe, spoke to the value of this site. It has high ranking at the national level as one of the important products they have to offer. Bird watchers are a major part of the users there. I think a good reason to have Liane or a commissioner address us, is to clarify funding sources.
  • Another citizen, Heather Crawford of Oceanside Beach Rentals, spoke to the point of keeping costs down by breaking the project into smaller pieces so that smaller, local contractors can bid. Her husband’s construction company just landed an exclusive contract with Washington County because of that sort of planning. Their bid for the work was substantially below the larger companies, because their overhead is so much lower. Shirley Kolhoven, chair of ACT, and mayor of Nehalem, agreed, saying that smaller bid pieces allow the smaller companies to qualify for a bid bond, whereas, they simply are not insurable for larger contracts.
  • Time was running short, so I weighed in, saying that  CM’s main concern is safety. We know the risks when we decide to live out at land’s end, and we appreciate the emergency measures county roads and others have put in place to deal with this emergency situation – but – the current emergency situation is not sustainable.
So the points I (Chris) would make are:
  • For many reasons, the county, other agencies within the county, Oregon Department of Transportation and other state agencies, the Oregon congressional and senate representatives, several federal agencies including US Fish and Wildlife, USDA, and others – are proceeding with the re-opening of the Cape Meares Loop Rd. That the road will be reopened is a reality.
  • An initial meeting was held Wed., Dec. 3, as an emergency meeting of the county commissioners to discuss funding for the reopening of the Loop Road. Attending were representatives from Senator Merkley and Wydens’ offices, ODOT, US Fish and Wildlife, and several other state and county agencies. Spence, from Cape Meares, was requested to attend as an affected citizen.
  • The design and cost of the project are in process. The opening of the road is still 2-4 years away due to the time required for funding and design, and then, of course, construction.
  • Funding will include grants. The county is currently proceeding with a grant from the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP). This grant will bring funding approximately to the half-way point, based on the current design. CMCA has been asked to write a letter in support of this grant. Although we could refuse to do so, and ask individuals to write letters of support instead, it is within the mission of CMCA to promote the safety and well being of our residents. The CMCA board members agree that the current emergency access/egress routes through the forest on single lane gravel roads are exactly that – emergency measures, and not sustainable in the long run. Because a letter from our organization carries weight, we think a letter should be written, but believe the contents should be decided by the Cape Meares community.
  • That a citizen representative from Cape Meares and from Oceanside were asked to attend the Dec. 3 funding meeting is an indication that our opinions carry weight. It is fair to say that we have a safer condition on Bayocean Rd. now, with no gravel trucks, RVs, and other traffic. True. But since the road will be re-opened, perhaps we can use what clout we do have, to help shape the traffic use of the entire loop once the north section is re-opened. Can the trucks be sent both ways to share out the noise, safety and road wear factors? We hope you will participate in this discussion.
Is there an interest in scheduling a “Town Hall Meeting” in early January after the busy holiday rush to discuss the re-opening of the road and perhaps seek additional information?  Is it your wish that your CMCA Board draft a reply and send it to Public Works after seeking further feedback from community residents?We now have Nextdoor available for everyone to comment regarding these questions.  This information will be posted on Nextdoor today and your feedback will be reviewed by Board members.  If we have a Town Hall meeting it will likely be on Saturday, January 10, at the schoolhouse. We would like feedback regarding this idea.  Chris asked Liane Welch if she would be willing to attend and she agreed to do so.  It might also be possible to invite one of the county commissioners to be in attendance.If there is not an interest in scheduling a community meeting or having the Board respond to the grant application it is still possible for you to provide individual feedback to Public Works by drafting a letter to the address below and then emailing this letter to jsteinba@co.tillamook.or.usPublic Works prefers you e-mail the letter to them so your letter can be part of the grant application packet that is due on January 30.  If you wish to write a letter be sure it arrives prior to this date.George Fekaris
Western Federal Lands Highway Division
610 E 5th Street
Vancouver, WA  98661

Your CMCA Board is functioning to meet the needs of the community.  We are seeking your feedback regarding this important matter.

Posted by Charles J. Ansorge with portions  of this message from Chris Spence.