Federal money funneled through the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will finance a one-year study to determine potential costs, feasibility, and potential routes for a possible bike path from the foot to the head of Wallowa Lake.

Requests for proposals (RFP) from about a dozen pre-qualified consulting firms in Oregon must be returned by May 13, at which time stakeholders such as Wallowa County, the city of Joseph, Oregon State Parks, and ODOT will follow an orderly selection process to help name a firm to begin the study, likely in July.

Teresa Penninger, Planning/Program/Business manager for ODOT Region 5, estimates the cost of the study to be about $100,000, and says the study itself will consider all potential ways to safely install such a bike path. One of several routes open for discussion for a bicycle/pedestrian thoroughfare is on the non-highway side – the west side – of Wallowa Lake.

Feedback from the public, Nez Perce Tribe, and others will be sought to determine best answers.

Although nearly all pre-qualified firms are based in western Oregon, Penninger says lists of potential subcontractors are included in pre-qualification packages submitted to ODOT and some of the work could be farmed out to local area subcontractors.

No bid prices will be included in the RFPs, says Penninger. The stakeholders will select a potential firm to do the work based on qualifications. Then, ODOT will conduct negotiations with that potential consulting firm to determine if an agreeable price and contract can be worked out.

In addition to considering the west side of the lake, other options to be studied will include the two possibilities for a single path on either side of the Wallowa Lake Highway, and another option that would install bike paths on both sides of the highway.

Space could be the biggest issue facing any bike path(s) along the highway, on the east side of Wallowa Lake; and rights-of-way across private property the biggest issue confronting the west side.

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