Pacific Power does electrical work Thursday in a section of Chapel Road that runs adjacent to school district property and is included in Benton County’s bikeway project. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

A 15-day closure of Chapel Drive between South 16th Street and Bellfountain Road begins Saturday as Benton County makes progress on a project intended to make the roadway safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The section will be closed only to through traffic with access limited to residents. However, the intersection of Chapel Drive and South 19th Street will be closed entirely to all traffic during the same 15-day period that runs until Aug. 20.

“I understand that it’s frustrating for a lot of people,” Benton County Public Works Associate Engineer Ian McGuire said about the closures. “But hopefully the short-term pain will be worth it in the long run.”

Chapel Drive’s existing pavement measures 22 feet wide with less than a foot of space for gravel shoulders on each side. Statistics show an average traffic count of 1,835 vehicles per day with 20% of those being heavy trucks. As a result, the situation for bicyclists and pedestrians has been determined to be unsafe.

“We’re going to have to have another closure for a large culvert replacement at the east fork of Newton Creek and we don’t know the exact dates for that yet,” McGuire added. “We’re still coordinating that.”

McGuire anticipated dates on the latter closure to be released in two or three weeks.

“We hoped to finish the project by Sept. 1 but it’s probably going to run until the end of September now because there was some difficulty in procuring line stops for a force main relocation so we can put a new culvert in,” McGuire said. “That’s a fish passage culvert, so that’s kind of been the one hiccup really other than the standard construction stuff that always pops up.”

K&E Excavating, under the direction of project manager Brandon Young, is the lead contractor.

This initial, upcoming closure involves culvert work as well but also the construction of a raised intersection at South 19th and Chapel, which will not be passable at all. In addition, medians that include turning areas will extend from Chapel into the entrance to Philomath Middle School. 

The project also features a multi-use path that will run from South 19th eastward toward the sidewalks in the Newton Creek subdivision.

“The multi-use path is going to be 10 feet wide along the middle school frontage and it sits a ways back from the road,” McGuire said.

The roadway project does not extend past South 19th with those improvements to be made by the Millpond Crossing subdivision’s developer.

Said McGuire, “He’s only going to go to 15th but hopefully someday, it’s going to go to Fern.”

Detour routes that utilize Fern Road, Airport Road and Bellfountain Road will be implemented, officials said.

Fern Road repairs

In other work planned for the near future, Benton County intends to repair a section of Fern Road. Construction is expected to begin sometime this fall and the $160,640 project will require Fern Road to be closed for a period of time to complete the work.

During the winter of 2022, the county’s road crew noticed that a slide area had been getting worse and the shoulder was in danger of separating from the rest of the road, officials said. The project will remove slide material, replace it with buttress fill and provide drainage at the toe of the new slope.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.