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ODOT levying fines of $800 to Legacy Contracting for each day Strawberry Lane project delayed

Strawberry Lane was scheduled to reopen by Aug. 31, but the $3 million construction project already is a month behind with few answers as to why the delays are occurring.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Strawberry Lane, a major east-west thoroughfare for unincorporated Clackamas County, is closed at its crossing of Interstate 205.Officials anticipate reopening the bridge over Interstate 205 by late October, but warn that even this revised schedule “is subject to change.”

Legacy Contracting, Inc. has been fined $800 by the Oregon Department of Transportation on a daily basis since Sept. 3, when Strawberry Lane failed to reopen as expected. A project update from ODOT said that “reconstructing and raising Strawberry Lane have taken more time than planned.”

Jeff Howell, president of Legacy Contracting, said that he didn’t want to discuss in more detail what went wrong.

“We have disagreements with ODOT on this project, and we’ve tried to have them resolved at the project level, and until that happens, we don’t want to be discussing it in the newspaper,” Howell said. “We are working with ODOT to get the bridge opened up, and the fines are one of those issues involving construction complexities that we are hoping to get resolved once we’re finished with the project.”

“The contractor has attempted to mitigate the delay by working longer shifts to return to the original schedule,” wrote ODOT spokesman Dee Hidalgo. “However, these extra shifts were not enough to allow the project to reopen Strawberry Lane safely by the earlier anticipated date.”

Meanwhile, no one can use Strawberry Lane, a major east-west thoroughfare for unincorporated Clackamas County. People walking or biking are detoured to Cason Lane during construction, while the shared-use path, located under the overpass west of I-205, has been closed since June. TriMet’s Line 79-Clackamas/Oregon City is detoured onto the 82nd Drive crossing over I-205, removing regular service from bus stops along Oatfield, Webster and Strawberry Lane. To mitigate the effect on riders, TriMet added a temporary route, Line 179-Webster/Oatfield.

A neighbor to the Strawberry Lane project, Craig Bomgardner, said he’s had to stop letting his kids play outside during construction.

“In some ways it’s been nice because when they shut down the bridge, you don’t get as much traffic,” Bomgardner said. “But we get a lot of construction traffic and people coming down here trying to get across and then peeling out as they speed out of here in their frustration.”

2003 project Déjà vu

ODOT’s project to raise the existing Strawberry Lane structure over Interstate 205 by 18 inches was designed to obtain additional vertical clearance for trucks. Clearance is expected to increase from 17 feet 2 inches to 18 feet 8 inches.

Dozens of people complained in writing to state officials about the project to help larger semi trucks get under Strawberry Lane’s I-205 overpass without adding sidewalks or a bike lane to Strawberry Lane.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - The shared-use path, located under the Strawberry Lane overpass west of I-205, has been closed since June.In response to the comments and other concerns raised by Clackamas County officials, the project was revised to add a railing and remove blackberries along the guard rails. Instead of a sidewalk or bike lane, the project will delineate a 5-foot-wide shoulder along the north side of the bridge by restriping travel lanes and adding a white stripe for the path. Planners propose to lower the speed limit to 25 mph in this area, add a crosswalk at Cason and Strawberry Lane, and add sharrows for cyclists eastbound on the east-side ramp of the bridge.

ODOT’s project elements include a seismic retrofit, raising approach embankments to match new grade requirements, and constructing retaining walls east of I-205 on both sides of Strawberry Lane.

If this project to raise the overpass seems familiar, that’s because ODOT indeed raised the overpass before in 2003. ODOT Project Leader Nicole Pierce said the ODOT’s vertical clearance standards for the overpass in 2003 required only 17 feet 2 inches at the time.

When ODOT’s Sunrise Corridor Project is complete next summer, over-height freight loads, which currently access 82nd Drive, will no longer be able to use the designated Oversized Freight Route to avoid current height restrictions on I-205 at Strawberry Lane.

“As a condition of the Sunrise project, ODOT committed to the freight community that we would raise the Strawberry Lane structure to accommodate over-height loads,” Pierce said.