Unless the original 15 miles of Millican Road is brought up to high standards, heavy truck traffic may have to be restricted

by: JASON CHANEY - Millican Road

Since 2004, Crook County has allowed heavy freight trucks passing through Central Oregon to travel Millican Road to avoid Bend and Redmond city traffic.

However, officials now face the possibility of restricting truck access because part of the road is not designed to withstand that level of use and the county lacks the money needed to upgrade it.

Crook County Road Master Penny Keller said that Crook County began building Millican Road, which travels south off of Highway 126, around the mid-1980s.

“It was piecemealed. It was done two miles at time,” she said. “When this road was originally constructed, it was for the primary reason to get a paved road to the (Prineville) Reservoir. It wasn’t constructed for truck traffic or major traffic along that way, so it was constructed to minimal road standards.”

Then, in 2004, Crook and Deschutes counties extended the road to Highway 20 east of Bend. The county utilized grant funding to complete the $5.2 million project, which resulted in a new portion of road designed for heavy truck traffic. However, they could not secure funds to bring the existing 15 miles of Millican Road up to the same standard.

“What the county then continued to do in trying to work with ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) is we would accept the over-dimensioned, heavy trucks on our route with the anticipation that there would be assistance in getting a funding package to fix the first 15 miles,” Keller said. “The county has been applying ever since then to try to get funding for that. We have always been beat out by the projects on (Highway) 97.”

As a result, the road continually breaks down, Keller said, and the money budgeted for maintenance cannot keep pace with the amount of patches and repairs needed.

The ongoing repair needs coupled with another recent development has prompted the county to consider restricting all truck traffic on the road. The decision is due in part to a $3.4 million grant the county was recently awarded that will enable them to repair the road for reservoir access.

“We are supposed to be going to construction next year, and obviously while we are in construction during those improvements for the OHV access points, it makes sense to be doing the other improvements at the same time,” Keller said.

However, that will cost the county at least $10.5 million. Even with the county contributing $1.9 million to the project, they still come up about $5 million short.

“My recommendation to the commissioners is the county will definitely need to make a decision once we go into construction with our federal highway project,” Keller said.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Trucking Commission and the Central Oregon Area Commission on Transportation have written letters to ODOT in support of the agency providing the necessary funding. They are not the only ones acting on the county’s behalf.

“Additional individual trucking companies will be submitting letters to the OTC (Oregon Trucking Commission) saying how important the route is to them,” Keller said.

Crook County Judge Mike McCabe is hoping they don’t have to close the road to trucks. He called the situation a commerce issue, because about 700 trucks travel the road on a daily basis, and driving through Bend and Redmond would slow them down.

“We want to keep it open as long as we can,” he said.

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