Travel to Klamath Falls will soon become safer, thanks to a major highway reconstruction project now underway to straighten and widen the precarious curves around Bly Mountain Pass on Hwy 140.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Thursday, July 30, to signal the start of what is expected to be a three-year project to fix a 9.2-mile stretch of the main artery between Klamath Falls and Lakeview. Long known as a stressful and dangerous stretch of road, particularly with ice and snow on the ground, the area between Ritter Road and Deer Run Road will be repaved, straightened and expanded. Once completed, the new section of the highway will eliminate many of the current restrictions on trucks for Hwy 140, creating an increase in freight and an economic boon for both counties.
The project has been many years in the making, requiring negotiations between Klamath County, Klamath Tribes, Lake County and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to accomplish the goal of making Hwy 140 safer, with funding for the project expected to be around $31 million. K&E Excavating in Salem was awarded the contract for the construction, with oversight from ODOT.
“There will be inconveniences,” said Robert Bryant, region manager for the Central Oregon region of ODOT regarding expected delays on the highway due to construction. “But it is for the greater good.”
Lake County Commissioner Brad Winters was among the representatives participating in the ceremony, taking time to speak on the positive economic impact that will come with completion of the highway upgrade as well as safety improvements.
“This is going to be instrumental in keeping Lake County alive,” said Winters. “This is huge for Lake County. We make many trips back and forth over to Klamath, we’re partners.”
Winters, among other speakers, stressed that the Bly Mountain Pass upgrades are just the first part of hopefully several projects to develop Hwy 140 as a major lifeline for southern Oregon communities from the Pacific Ocean to Winnemucca.
“The safety side is huge, a lot of our kids make bus trips for sports to Klamath, and this will reduce a lot of detours for trucks,” Winters added after the ceremony. Local businesses along Hwy 140 and throughout Lake County should benefit, both in an increase of supplies and additional travelers on the road translating to potentially more customers.
For prospective improvements to Hwy 140 in Lake County, Winters indicated that ODOT has already done developmental analysis on the Doherty Slide area and Deep Creek curves.
For video of the groundbreaking ceremony and interviews visit the Examiner’s youtube channel or www.lakecountyexam.com.