Who will foot the bill for highway repairs?

By Scot Pearson

South Bend traffic will be slowed


It must be summer as city crews and Washington State Department of Transportation are busy with work all through Pacific County.

Almost taking the city to a standstill by blocking traffic in both directions of State Route 101, the WDOT is out taking soil samples along the Willapa River to try and figure out if they can correct the landslide problem in South Bend.

"We all have to wait and see what they find out after they take the samples," said South Bend City Supervisor Dennis Houk.

The heavy rainfall of January 2015 triggered a small landslide just below First Street in South Bend that ran across the highway. There are possibly three action plans for the fix of the problem, but city and state crews cannot move forward until they figure out what will be the best fix for the landmass.

"We could put in a retaining wall, or we could just try and fill it, it is also possible that we may need to drill down and use pin piles to reinforce the area first."

With little warning, the WSDOT came in force to the area and prepared to shut down the highway to conduct soil samples, but once the word got out, city, county and state representatives put a halt to the traffic snare and were able to negotiate a smaller impact to the travelers and commuters passing through the area.

"They had dropped the ball on this one," said Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson, "They (WSDOT) all but admitted that their support groups did not conduct the proper follow-through for this plan of action."

It appears that the state crews had neglected to inform the powers to be about their intent to shut down traffic along the highway, but were able to make alternate arrangements around traffic flow. For the next few days, traffic around the South Bend boat launch will be alternating through one lane for a couple of hours during the day, as WSDOT brings in a smaller then originally planned crane to run the drill to take the required soil samples.

The new schedule is to have reduced traffic flow, alternating one lane traffic, from around 10 am - noon, from now through May 7 as samples are taken. The impacted area will be between A and D streets along State Route 101.

The samples are required to see if a plan of action can be drawn up as to what can be done to secure the area from future landslides just below First Street. Some work has already been done along the route from the past heavy rain with retaining walls being created. But the current area of interest seems to be a little more complicated as to why they need to take the soil samples.

"We are still not sure who the land belongs to or who will pay for the work," said Houk.

Like in many areas, the land is in one of those places that may be state property, might be county land, and might even be private or city owned land; as it is on the side of a hill.

And with everyone strapped for money this year, it will be a hard fought battle to see who will be picking up the tab for the reconstruction of the area once a determination is made as to the best fix.

Many areas impacted by the heavy rains have had to pick up the cost of repair as the threshold of damage fell short of any disaster funds that may be used from state or even federal grants.

Drivers are asked to have a little patience as crews drive in a crane to run the drill for sampling and be prepared to take a little longer to get through town.