Tillamook County Commissioner Mark Labhart is excited about the recent approval of $6.1 million for the Cape Meares Loop Road’s realignment project.
By Ann Powers
“Whoopeeeee!” he said in an email to the Headlight Herald. “It’s been three years since this road was closed and we finally have the funding secured to begin the final design and build the road around the slide. This is great news for Tillamook County and residents of Cape Meares, Oceanside and Three Capes Scenic Loop.”
The Three Capes Scenic Loop has been disconnected since a landslide closed Cape Meares Loop Road on Jan. 11, 2013.
The Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) notified county officials last month their application for up to $6.1 million for the project had been approved. Approximately $6 million had previously been secured for the work, that has an estimated total cost of $13 million.
“We have to come up with a local match of about $1 million,” said Public Works Director Liane Welch. “It’s a challenge, but we’re committed to finding it.”
She added discussions with the County Road Advisory Committee indicate “complete support from them for this project and the need to find the local match.”
The project will reopen the Three Capes Scenic Route section for visitor access to Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge and the State Scenic Viewpoint and Lighthouse. Welch said construction is slated to begin in 2020. The design work is underway with the Western Federal Lands Highway Division.
“This is a very complicated project with a lot of pieces rolling around there,” she added.
Officials said plans include constructing a bypass around the historic landslide vicinity that shut down a 1.5-mile section of Cape Meares Loop Road between Oceanside and Cape Meares. Documents show the area has been plagued with ongoing landslide activity dating back to the late 1890s.
With access closed to through traffic, visitors and local residents can only access the wildlife refuge and lighthouse from the south. Visitor counts in 2011 and 2013 show a 12 percent decrease to the wildlife refuge and lighthouse following the roadway’s closure.
Other project benefits include a tsunami escape route for Oceanside and Cape Meares and an emergency detour for Oceanside and Netarts if Highway 131 is shut down.
Morever, when slides and roadway closures occur on Bay Ocean Road, the Cape Meares community is cut off from emergency services, schools and jobs. Project coordinators said the bypass will alleviate these concerns.
Welch added public meetings will be scheduled for education and input. Dates and times have yet to be announced. For more information, call 503-842-3419.