Road construction on the $8 million dollar Wallowa Mountain Loop Road Project is scheduled to begin June 17, 2019. Construction should be completed by November 13, 2019. The project starts at the intersection of the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road and the Joseph-Imnaha Highway (OR 350), and continues five miles south on the to the USFS Wallowa Whitman National Forest boundary. The project is funded mostly by the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP), with additional contributions from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB). Wallowa County is contributing 10.27 percent of the total 8 million dollar budget, Commissioner Susan Roberts said.
Perhaps the most important component of the project is construction of a new single-span bridge over Sheep Creek and realignment of the highways’ intersection. The work will transform the present severely-angled intersection into a safer and more conventional “T” intersection, including a right-hand turn lane as you approach the intersection from Joseph. The bridge will replace three culverts that are an impediment to fish passage, and is partly funded by a grant from OWEB. Completing the bridge in a timely manner is a an important goal of the project.
Roberts said that the contractor, High Desert Aggregate, was chosen because they met all the criteria placed on the project by the funder, FLAP. “The road will stay pretty much in its present footprint,” Roberts said. “The contractor will grind off the asphalt, and then resurface it where it is now. There might be new guard rails and other improvements, but it will not make the road wider or change its alignment.” It will certainly make it smoother, she added.
The project is administered by the Federal Highway Administration, Vancouver, Washington. The contractor is High Desert Aggregate and Paving, Terrebonne, Oregon.
Roberts noted that there are several other road projects slated for this summer in Wallowa County. They include resurfacing Highway 82 between Joseph and Enterprise, Reconstruction of the Zumwalt Road to the Forest Service boundary, and of course the realignment of the highway along the Minam Grade. "The Zumwalt Road will be given a new gravel surface," Roberts said. "When it was built, it was planned to be a paved road. but that never happened. The roadbed now doesn't have much in the way of genes to hold the larger piece s of gravel together. So the gravel just spreads out to the sides of the road." The Zumwalt Road contractor is already on-site, and may begin work as early as next week.