"We have the money allocated for the design phase and are working on a more permanent solution to that part of the roadway," said Cara Mitchell, Olympic Area Communications for WSDOT.
Some residents of the Grays Harbor community remember even further back and have stated that the area has been a problem for at least 40 years. But regardless of how long the area has been prone to shifting, WSDOT realizes the issue and has placed the area and the project to repair it as their number one priority under their Unstable Slope Management Program.
The fix will be a series of columns embedded into the slope as well as replacing the culvert.
"The culvert has been replaced at least twice, once in the late 1990's and again in 2006. And the road resurfaced as recently as the spring of 2014. We are working against Mother Nature here," said Mitchell.
The area located between mileposts 72 and 73 along Highway 101, currently has had 140 yards of gravel placed in the "Dip" to level the road and keep traffic flowing. It was noted that the affected area sits atop of a pre-historic slide zone and the latest "slipping" cause 150 feet of the road to shift. Crews graded and leveled the area as recently as last week as well as reduced the speed from 55-25 miles per hour as the area settles. Recent rains caused additional stress to the area, breaking the asphalt paving from earlier in the year. WSDOT has been working the problematic area as well as over 2,500 additional sites in the state under the Unstable Slope Management Program, and has placed Rock Crusher Hill as priority number one for the local area.
"Engineers are already working on a solution, which involves an estimated 200-300 columns to be drilled on the slope side of the road. The columns are six foot in diameter. It is just down to the State Legislature to fund the project before we can get started with the construction," said Mitchell.
It is estimated that the project will hit the seven million dollars for both the design and implementation of the project. The budget is schedule for the 2015-2017 budget.
"I along with Representative Dean Takko have tried to bring this part of the road to the attention of the state. I believe it was when the Governor mad a trip down this way a few years ago and really got to "experience" Rock Crusher Hill", that is started shifting up on the priority list," said Representative Brian Blake of the 19th District.
"The road is of critical importance to both Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties. People remember that during the storm of 2007 that areas in Pacific County were cut off. We do not need to let that happen again," said Blake.
While the fix still needs to get through the legislature, WSDOT said that the money is there and Gas Tax revenues have already paid for the design portion of the project.
"The entire project will be paid for by the Gas Tax, and will not raise any taxes. The federal Government is also providing money into the project," said Mitchell.
"When we replaced the culvert it did not fix the problem," said Representative Blake, "But with the columns this looks to be the solution that we are looking for. We are not the only place with this problem."
"Once we get the green light and can start construction on Rock Crusher Hill, it is estimated that it will take about a year to complete. But as of now, the plan is to have the area open during the construction, reduce the speed in the area, move to alternating traffic through one lane, to keep traffic moving," said Mitchell.
As residents wait through another winter, keep in mind that Rock Crusher Hill, though may still be a small problem and at times a minor inconvenience, will only be a problem for a little longer as a solution is on the way. As you travel along the 101 and reach milepost 72, keep your eyes open, tread lightly and report any additional shifting that you see occur to the WSDOT.