Tribal Government & News

Grand Ronde Road repair delayed indefinitely

10.14.2020 Dean Rhodes Tribal government
Although white paint outlines the alligator cracking on Grand Ronde Road that needs to be repaired, the work will have to wait until pavers are ready to bid on the project. (Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez/Smoke Signals)


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

First it was smoky skies after Labor Day caused by numerous wildfires in western Oregon.

Then it was a lack of potential bidders.

The scheduled repair work on Grand Ronde Road has been delayed for the foreseeable future, Tribal Public Works Coordinator John Mercier said on Thursday, Oct. 8.

“Polk County sent the project out to bid and received zero bids,” Mercier said. “We attempted to sole source the project, but was unsuccessful. We plan to maintain a ‘patch-as-we-go’ process until the pavers are ready to bid the project.

“I believe the lack of bids was mostly due to shutdowns resulting from COVID and wildfires. Polk called one paver and they answered with a ‘we are not working at all’ response.”

Tribal Council approved a memorandum of agreement with Polk County on repairing pothole-marked Grand Ronde Road during its Aug. 19 meeting.

Polk County, which has jurisdiction over the roadway, was to perform engineering and project management while the Tribe paid for the estimated $45,000 in repairs as part of its Long Range Transportation Plan/Tribal Transportation Program.

Polk County Public Works Director Todd Whitaker said the repairs involve patch paving to fix the potholes and replacing the “alligator” cracking – interconnected cracking of the asphalt – to help keep the road in shape for a few more years.

Road repair work was originally set to begin in the second week of September and be completed by Sept. 30.

Grand Ronde Road was last significantly reconstructed in 2009 and completed in 2010 for $4.8 million using a mix of Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service and Polk County funds.

The two main culprits causing the potholes and alligator cracking are a combination of moisture issues with Grand Ronde-area soil and heavy trucks using the road as a shortcut to Highway 18.