By Aaron West

The Bulletin

Construction work on a bridge that would route traffic over the railroad tracks north of La Pine, at the U.S. Highway 97-Wickiup Junction, has been stopped because of unstable ground. It is the second time in less than a year that problems halted construction of the $17 million bridge.

According to Oregon Department of Transportation spokesperson Peter Murphy, the ground near where the bridge is being built is settling for unknown reasons. Construction crews noticed the instability over the past few weeks, Murphy said. The construction work, which has been ongoing since last year, will be put on hold until ODOT can determine what’s causing the settling.

The agency will spend the next few weeks examining the construction site and reviewing geological data before deciding what the next steps should be. Murphy said the agency hopes to have the preliminary investigations finished by June 1.

The Wickiup Junction project will reroute a short section of U.S. Highway 97 in order to eliminate the last at-grade railroad crossing on a major highway in Central Oregon.

The bridge was originally scheduled to be complete by the end of 2017, according to the construction contract. Whether that still happens depends on what ODOT finds out from its investigation, Murphy said.

Last August, two 173-foot-long concrete beams that would span the bridge fell from where a crane was placing them on the overpass, halting construction until late October.

The beams, which weighed about 130 tons each, didn’t cause any injuries. They were to provide the structural support for an overpass going up and over the railroad tracks a short distance east of the current railroad crossing.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,