Youngs River Loop Road gets upgrade to current county standardsA notoriously rough road is getting a lot smoother as road crews rebuild a section of Youngs River Loop Road south of Astoria - using the old pavement as a foundation.

In the meantime, though, motorists are being warned to drive slowly and carefully through the 21 4 mile construction zone, or better yet, to avoid it altogether.

A stretch of the road between Tucker Creek Road and Youngs River Falls is being rebuilt to eliminate the cracked, broken pavement and bring the road up to the county's modern standards.

As part of the project, crews are "recycling" the original 80-year-old concrete road surface for use as base material for the new road, a technique that reduces the need for rock and saves the effort of tearing up and removing the old pavement.

The contractor, M.L. Houcke Construction of Salem, brought in a special machine to break up, or "rubblize," the old concrete pavement into one-foot chunks.

"It turns it into the size of rock we are going to be putting down, rather than having to rip it up and put in additional material," said Clatsop County engineering technician Terry Hendryx.

The county has its own pavement-breaking machine, but it works much more slowly and leaves large holes in the road that must be filled in before traffic can be allowed over them. The borrowed machine, which uses a weighted steel bar that leaves parallel lines in the pavement, covered the entire construction area in two days, and left the road still driveable, if at a slower speed, Hendryx said.

Up to eight inches of base rock will go on top of the old pavement, then another four inches of smaller rock, and finally four inches of asphalt. The entire $1.2 million project is projected to be finished in mid-October, depending on the weather.

The county has used the recycling technique on many projects, including the northern section of Youngs River Road, and so far the new roads appear to be holding up well, Hendryx said.

Youngs River Loop Road was installed in the 1920s when many roads in the county were built of concrete. Digging up parts of the road, workers found that in many places their predecessors simply filled in old ruts with rock before pouring the cement, while in other spots the concrete was laid right on the dirt, with no base at all. Over the years, as holes opened up in the soil beneath the road, many of the concrete panels tilted and broke, creating the cracked, uneven surface that's plagued drivers and cyclists for years.

Still, the concrete is in relatively good shape, and it will work well as a base

for the new road, Hendryx said.

"It's amazing how six inches of concrete held up over 70 or 80 years," he said.

The road remains open during the work, but with the old pavement broken up, and heavy trucks and equipment traveling back and forth all day, the surface has a lot of sharp edges and exposed rocks that can puncture a tire or cause worse damage for cars driving too fast through the construction zone. Hendryx said one truck had its oil pan holed recently.

"I drove through at 10 mph, and that's all the speed I wanted," he said. "It's extremely hazardous right now, but it will get better soon."

The contractor will try to keep one lane open at all times during the project, although there could be waits of up to 20 minutes during some periods, Hendryx said. Priority will be given to school buses and local residents heading to work in the morning.

The roadway, now 16 to 18 feet wide in most places, will be widened to the county's current 28-foot standard - 11-foot travel lanes and three-foot shoulders on each side.

The current legal right-of-way is only 40 feet, and accommodating the wider road required the purchase of land from adjacent property owners along about 70 percent of the two-and-a-quarter-mile stretch, Hendryx said.

Where widening was necessary along hillsides, crews cut into the hill instead of filling the downhill slope. That was mainly because of the presence of wetlands at the openings of culverts under the roadway. "Everywhere you have a cross culvert, you have a wetland," Hendryx said.

Because the project managed to avoid most of those wetland areas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not require the county to perform any mitigation, he said.

The project, funded through Road District No. 1, has been on the county's to-do list for several years, according to County Engineer Ron Ash. Future projects include the rest of Youngs River Loop Road down to the Youngs River falls and over to Oregon Highway 202, as well as Hillcrest Loop, Westport Ferry Road, and asphalt overlays on several other roads.

The public works department last put together its project priority list several years ago, and the department will likely approach the county commissioners to update it, Ash said. Improvements to Sunset Beach Road, for example, are currently low on the list, but with the planned completion later this year of the Fort-to-Sea trailhead at the end of the road, the county may want to expedite the project, he said.

The fate of future road work is uncertain. County Administrator Scott Derickson recently announced a series of cost-saving measure that were enacted in the face of a potentially heavy loss of revenue from ballot Measure 34, the "Tillamook50 50" timber initiative on the November ballot.

Because Road District No. 1, which funds county road work, gets one-third of its $3 million annual budget from state timber revenue, the spending freeze covers several road projects, including Westport Ferry Road and work on Logan Road.