Tunnel Vision: Fish freeway nears completion

Barring incremental weather, Manzanita’s tunnel expansion is expected to “daylight through” this week, with improvements on U.S. Highway 101 above completed by September 2017, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

By Ann Powers

The two-fold project will:
•  Replace a deteriorated 500-foot metal culvert that conveys Neahkahnie Creek with a new 270-foot pipe allowing for fish passage into Rinehart Lake. The remaining length of culvert will be replaced with a “natural” stream channel extending up to the outlet of Reinhart Lake.
•  Improve the left-turn lanes along U.S. 101 northbound at Laneda and Manzanita Avenues. Additional improvements include roadside drainage, pavement preservation, access management, bike lanes and sidewalks, lighting, striping and guardrails.
Tunnel XB
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife lists the creek as its highest priority for fish passage due to excellent spawning habitat within the upper reaches of the lake. The existing culvert is 460 feet long, has a steep grade (causing high water velocities) and the outlet is perched above the stream channel.
Officials said these conditions are barriers to juvenile fish in reaching critical habitat.

And while the project’s top priority focuses on fish, ODOT representatives said the new left-turn lanes at Manzanita and Laneda Avenues will be added safety and accessibility features for travelers making their way to Manzanita.

Moreover, any potential risk associated with parking areas at Big Wave restaurant located on the west end highway’s southbound lane will be eliminated. Travelers will no longer have to pull out close to the roadway’s edge.

“We’re redoing the alignment of the highway,” said Dave True, ODOT Project Manager. “There will be a curb and sidewalk where the center of the existing southbound lane is now.”

Big Wave owner, Brian Williams, said the project’s construction can be tiresome at times, it doesn’t hinder his business and customer protection is something he welcomes.

“I’m all for safety,” he said. “It’s going to be value added when it’s all said and done.”

Planning of the project started in 2008 and the work endured several delays. Construction started in early 2015. Funding comes from the Fish Passage ($3.2 million) and Modernization ($3 million) programs.