Road Crews Prepare Tunnels, Bridges, and Highways For Major Earthquake

Jan 3, 2018

State transportation crews in Oregon are now readying bridges, tunnels, and other infrastructure for a potentially powerful Cascadian earthquake. KLCC’s Brian Bull reports.

A destroyed section of highway following an earthquake in Alaska, 2003. Oregon transportation officials hope to make state highways more resilient for an anticipated Cascadian earthquake.
Credit welcome_to_nunavik / Flickr.com

Scientists say a 9-point magnitude earthquake could hit the Pacific Northwest any time now.  

Bruce Johnson of the Oregon Department of Transportation says $35 million has been designated from the state’s latest transportation bill, for what’s called “seismic triage”, making infrastructure more resilient against heavy quakes.

Map showing progress Seismic Triage development.
Credit Oregon Department of Transportation / ODOT

“In talking to emergency response folks, we learned it’s not only highways, but all the airports are going to be damaged in the west," says Johnson. 

"And their plan is to make Redmond airport a central hub, for supplies coming in and out of Oregon, after an event like that.  And so we wanted to have the highways connecting the Redmond airport to California, Oregon, and Washington, and to Central Oregon to the valley, to be our highest priority.”

Seismic upgrading has begun on Highway 58 and U.S. 97. More will follow.

Johnson says this is Phase 1 of the Seismic Triage project. There are five phases altogether, each one taking at least 10 years to complete.

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