If the fish and chips or burrito you ate in Astoria begins talking to you as you travel east on U.S. Highway 30, it might be alarming to find that there aren't many places to stop and "refresh."

Or if you have to cross your legs until you make it to that next gas station, the news that the only rest stop on the stretch of highway between Portland and Astoria has closed for repairs does not provide adequate relief.

That rest stop, at Bradley Scenic Wayside, is closed so its sewer system, which experienced a systemwide

failure, can be replaced.

Just in time to make the necessary repairs, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money is paying for parking-lot improvements and septic system replacement at Bradley State Scenic Viewpoint, located almost 20 miles east of Astoria on Highway 30.

The project, a joint venture between Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) and the Department of Transportation (ODOT), is associated with several other projects funded statewide by the stimulus dollars that will make improvements to Western Oregon rest areas. The total cost of the contract - known as Western Oregon Rest Areas: Restrooms & Paving ARRA - is $752,438. This includes four separate rest areas in Western Oregon.

The contract for Bradley Scenic Wayside is $347,939. The scope of work includes installation of a new sewage treatment facility (a gravel recirculating filter and related infrastructure), installation of a pressure sewer main, stretching 650 feet from the park host's site to the new treatment system (an uphill rise of 30 to 40 feet), and reconfiguring the parking lot with curbs and landscaping.

Big River Excavation of Astoria is doing the work. Brett Brenden, a foreman for the company, said he's been on the job about a month, and credits the project with keeping workers on the job.

"This is keeping us working for sure," he said. "We've got a lot of guys on the bench."

He said Big River Excavation, which often has more than 100 employees through the summer, has only about 50 employees right now.

"For the small crew that we have, it's keeping us going. We're the lucky few that haven't (been laid off)," Brenden said.

Giant, picturesque trees have been encircled with a temporary fence to warn workers not to excavate near them, and protect the trees' roots.

When digging is necessary around the trees, workers break out the shovels.

Dave Thompson, a spokesman for ODOT, said the parks department is a great steward of public assets.

"We've really worked well with state parks for a long time on a lot of different partnerships," he said.

Mike Stein, OPRD North Coast manager, said the old system had failed, and his department had listed the project in the statewide maintenance schedule. It was one of many projects for the agency, as was a project to renovate the parking area.

"This was considered a backlog project - at least in terms of the parking lot," he said. "It was on a list, waiting for project dollars to come from within my agency." Years could go by, waiting for project funding, he said.

"When federal stimulus dollars came about, it was one of the few projects in our agency that looked like it would be a good match for those federal stimulus dollars," he said. "In all aspects of things, I think we just flat-out lucked out that we were able to tap into that source of funding."

The gravel filter will be housed in a building that is in what was once a parking area (the parking capacity of the site will decline from possibly 40 vehicles to 14).

"That's a concern, but in the end we're a wayside that does about 100,000 people a year," Stein said. "We may lose the ability to pull in the bigger trailer now and then, which isn't frequently."

The wayside is more a spot for vehicles to pull off the road, use the facility and allow people to overlook the Columbia River and Puget Island.

"I've seen it busy. You'd be surprised how many people we get up here at lunchtime on a pretty day," Stein said. "When you get down to it - between here and Clatskanie - this is the one spot you can pull off and find a restroom."

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