Make the McKenzie Connection!

McKenzie Pass is getting an upgrade

Route won’t open while $4.1 million in construction work is underway

OLD MCKENZIE PASS: Crews have already begun working on a project to improve conditions for drivers and cyclists using Hwy. 242. The resurfacing work extends between the Dee Wright Observatory and U.​S. Route 20. It will include rebuilding degraded or substandard shoulders and bike lanes, removing safety hazards, updating some ADA curb ramps, and replacing or repairing signs and warning systems throughout the corridor.

The project also involves the installation of more accessible bathrooms at Cold Springs Campground and Picnic Site and, at the Dee Wright Observatory, bicycle parking at Dee Wright, plus pullouts and interpretive panels throughout the corridor.

Some funds for the $4.1 million project came from a Federal Lands Access Program grant. “Improvement grants like this are critical to low-traffic volume roads like McKenzie Pass,” according to Mindy McCartt, a Public Information Officer with the Oregon Department of Transportation. Without sustainable funding, many low-volume roads will deteriorate,” she noted.

“We will remind people that when this road is closed, it is closed to everyone. Do not pass the closed gates, and never enter a work zone,” McCartt said. “This is especially important to remember this year as crews work behind the closed gates of OR 242 to make this route smoother and safer for everyone.”

Since crews will be working in a blocked-off area, they may work any day of the week, and heavy equipment will be on the road. “After a long winter, we know everyone is anxious to head out and start recreating along this highway,” according to an ODOT press release. During the closure, officials say it is essential to remember that while crews are upgrading the Old McKenzie Pass Scenic Byway, “they may work any day of the week, and heavy equipment will be on the road through the project's duration.”

Workers from Knife River are already busy in the project's early stages, and travelers will notice that the work is happening first in Sisters before progressing west up Hwy. 242.

ODOT announced earlier this year that it would need to reduce maintenance activities due to structural revenue issues. The 2024 short legislative session approved $19 million of additional funding for winter maintenance activities. It was assigned to repair potholes, resume striping fog lines on lower-volume roads, and purchase additional snowplows.

The Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) was established to improve transportation facilities that provide access to, are adjacent to, or are located within federal lands. Funds are allocated based on road mileage, number of bridges, land area, and visitation numbers.

ODOT says they hope to have all of the paving - between Milepost 77.3 and 92.2 - complete before the earliest possible opening date for the pass - usually the third Monday in June. “Paving and project work is always weather dependent, and schedules may change,” a spokesman noted. Up-to-date information is available on ODOT’s project website at tinyurl.com/45ub27v8

 

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