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Road Crews Prepare Tunnels, Bridges, and Highways For Major Earthquake


State transportation crews in Oregon are now readying bridges, tunnels, and other infrastructure for a potentially powerful Cascadian earthquake. KLCC’s Brian Bull reports.

Scientists say a 9-point magnitude earthquake could hit the Pacific Northwest any time now.  

Bruce Johnson of the Oregon Department of Transportation says $35 million has been designated from the state’s latest transportation bill, for what’s called “seismic triage”, making infrastructure more resilient against heavy quakes.

Credit Oregon Department of Transportation / ODOT
Map showing progress Seismic Triage development.

“In talking to emergency response folks, we learned it’s not only highways, but all the airports are going to be damaged in the west," says Johnson. 

"And their plan is to make Redmond airport a central hub, for supplies coming in and out of Oregon, after an event like that.  And so we wanted to have the highways connecting the Redmond airport to California, Oregon, and Washington, and to Central Oregon to the valley, to be our highest priority.”

Seismic upgrading has begun on Highway 58 and U.S. 97. More will follow.

Johnson says this is Phase 1 of the Seismic Triage project. There are five phases altogether, each one taking at least 10 years to complete.

Copyright 2017, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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