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SR 28 - Rock Island Slope Stabilization

This project is complete.
  click to view an enlarged map.  This project stabilizes a slope above SR 28 between mileposts 11.01 and 12.1, near Rock Island Dam, in Douglas County.

click to view larger photos

SR 28
You couldn't see much of the actual work from 310 feet below on the highway.
Drilling on an unstable slope 310 feet above the highway is not for the faint of heart.

This project required development of the most comprehensive public information/notification system for a single project in the North Central Region.

Project Facts
18,000 dump truck loads of rock were removed during stage 1
By comparison, only 700 dump truck loads were needed to remove rock during stage 2.
The project was broken into three stages to accommodate wintering Bald Eagles and the needs of fruit growers and shippers.

Project Status
Stage 2 - Completed

Work began on April 5th, 2004 and was finished on October 8, 2004.


Why did WSDOT do this project?

The primary purpose was safety.The entire project is to stop rocks from falling onto the highway creating a hazard for travelers. An unstable 300 foot high basalt rock slope has continuously produced falling rock onto SR 28. The highway and railroad tracks occupy a thin strip of land between the base of the cliffs and the Columbia River, just below Rock Island Dam in Douglas County. WSDOT maintenance crews are routinely called to clear hazardous rock fall from the roadway. The project will significantly improve traveler safety. At the same time, the project is designed to accommodate future widening of SR 28. The project is broken into three stages.
Stage1 was completed in 2003 and removed 220,000 cubic yards of basalt rock at the southern half of the project boundaries and created two containment tiers, or "benches", to keep rocks from reaching the roadway. The lower tier, 30 feet above the level of the highway, will serve as the roadbed for two more lanes as SR 28 is expanded in the future.

Stage 2 constructed a retaining wall 310 feet above the roadway at the northern half of the project. The "Soil Nail" wall will be over 400 feet long and up to 40 feet high. Its purpose is to contain rock and stabilize the loose talus rock slope above it. This will allow crews to work safely below it as they placed steel nets on another large unstable rock outcropping in stage 3. Construction began April 5, 2004 and was complete on October 8th, 2004.

Stage 3 involves redirection and containment of rock fall by installing slope nettings a short distance north (upstream) of Stage 1. It is currently in the design phase.

The End Result
When complete, the potential for falling rocks to reach the highway and railroad tracks below the huge basalt cliffs at Rock Island Dam will be nearly eliminated. Safety will be dramatically improved. WSDOT maintenance expenses will be reduced, as will the costs to add more lanes to SR 28 in the future.

Project Benefits
Aside from the obvious and immediate benefits of reducing the driving hazard presented by falling rocks on the highway and the accommodations for future expansion of SR 28, drainage and sight-distance are also improved. This further improves safety and reduces maintenance expenses. The 18,000 dump truck loads of rock removed during stage 1 were stockpiled for use in future WSDOT road building projects.

This project is also an example of cooperation. From an engineering standpoint, the original plan called for the work to be complete in two construction seasons. As a result of WSDOT's experience during stage 1, fruit industry representatives were invited to discuss the impact of traffic delays at harvest times. The project was broken into three stages to minimize impacts to the early cherry harvest and the soft fruit and apple harvests, August through October.

Since there are no reasonable detours around the project, traffic control affecting commuters, truckers, travelers, emergency service providers and the railroad has been a top priority. Significant planning and expense resulted in a successful public information program to provide users with timely and accurate delay or closure information utilizing a number of resources.

  • This web page.
  • A traffic camera image on the web page that shows the work area and highway traffic conditions that updates every few minutes.
  • Portable Highway Advisory Radios (frequency AM 530) on SR 28 at Grant Road in East Wenatchee and also just west of Quincy with frequent updates on traffic delay times.
  • E-mail and faxes to media, businesses, schools, transit and emergency services, alert users of the planned work and traffic controls for the next 24 and 48 hours.
  • Electronic changeable message signs on the highway inform travelers of current and upcoming traffic impacts.
  • WSDOT works closely with local radio stations and newspapers to constantly inform the public of current and upcoming delays and closures.
Traffic impacts during stage 2 were far less onerous than stage 1 since no blasting or blast closures are required.  Slope stability was determined (how much rock breaks loose to the roadway below) as initial drilling began.  Full 20 minute closures were necessary only a couple of days each week as accumulated refuse rock was pushed over the edge to be hauled to the stockpile.

In case of emergencies:
Extensive coordination with Douglas County and Grant County law enforcement, fire protection and ambulance services was established prior to the project. Since the county line is approximately 11 miles east of the project, there was no way for Douglas County emergency services to respond when the highway was closed during the controlled blasts in stage 1 (or next year's stage 3). Agreements were reached so that Grant County emergency services covered that portion of Douglas County. Emergency service providers involved include Douglas and Grant County fire districts, the Washington State Patrol, Wenatchee and East Wenatchee Police, Douglas and Chelan County Sheriffs, Ballard and Life Line Ambulance Services, Central Washington Hospital and Quincy Valley Medical Center.

What was the project timeline?

  • Stage 1 began April 1st of 2003 and was complete on August 28.
  • Stage 2 began April 5th of 2004 and was completed on October 8th.
  • Stage 3 is planned for construction in the summer of 2008.

Public Involvement
Any questions or comments you have are welcomed by WSDOT Wenatchee Project Engineer Bob Romine.  He can be contacted with the information at the bottom of this page.

Environmental Protection
All applicable environmental regulations continue to be followed as this project continues.  Among them are the dates when work can be done.  Between November and March, work is prohibited because of the wintering Bald Eagles in the area.
Please visit the WSDOT Environmental Services Web site for more information.

Increasing safety is a priority
While the purpose of the slope stabilization project is to remove a hazardous road condition that threatens travelers on the highway, the safety of those working on and driving through the project was an equally high priority during construction of phase 2. 

Did this project impact tribal resources?
WSDOT seeks to address the concerns of tribal nations using the process outlined in Section 106 of The National Historic Preservation Act and the WSDOT Tribal Consultation Policy adopted in 2003 by the Transportation Commission as part of the WSDOT Centennial Accord Plan.  

Financial Information

Stage 2 of this project was funded through the following sources:

  • Pre-Existing Gas Tax - $2 million
  • Total funding from all sources - $2 million

How can I get more information?

Bob Romine, Project Engineer
WSDOT North Central Region                               

2830 Euclid Avenue
P.O. Box 98
Wenatchee, WA  98807-0098
Phone: (509) 667-2880

or toll free (888) 461-8816
E-mail: rominer@wsdot.wa.gov

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