Highway 166 guardrail slumping

The in basket: I’ve been driving past a number of traffic cones deployed along the waterside guardrail on Highway 166 between Port Orchard and Gorst for a couple of months now. There once were four on the pavement and two atop the guardrail, but I think one of our windstorms blew away all but two of those on the pavement.

It’s easy to see why they are there. A section of guardrail is slumping away. A little farther toward Gorst, a crack has developed in the pavement.

That stretch is well known to most locals for the series of slides that until recently came down from above regularly and blocked the highway until they could be removed.

Less well known is the time, perhaps 25 years ago or longer, when the entire roadway dropped 10 feet or so, closing it for weeks. As crews removed what fell, they found layer after layer of asphalt that had been used to address lesser slumps over the years. All that extra weight was believed to have contributed to the highway’s failure.

The state used light weight material, wood chips, if I recall correctly, for the fill that repaired the failure.

I wondered if today’s problems are just a failed guardrail of if something worse is suspected.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, says “Our materials staff looked at the site in question (milepost 1.2). They will add the area to our statewide Unstable Slope List, which will put it in the line-up for a more robust permanent fix as funds become available (which, to be candid, could take years).

“In the meantime, our maintenance crews will maintain the road with guardrail repairs and asphalt patches.”

She included mention of the Web site describing the state’s Unstable Slope Management Program. The address is about a mile long, so I went to http://www.wsdot.wa.gov and asked for Unstable Slopes Program, which got me there.

I thought it odd the site wasn’t already on the unstable slopes list, due to all the past slides from above, but Claudia says it’s just now being added.

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