SR 505 culvert repairs illustrate teamwork and initiative

By guest blogger Heidi Sause

Things aren’t always what they seem.

A damaged culvert opened a sinkhole and closed SR 505
for three weeks.
In late March, our maintenance team responded to a concern about sagging pavement on State Route 505 in downtown Winlock. What appeared to be a minor issue turned out to be the visible sign of a larger problem: a damaged culvert. The sagging pavement quickly opened into a 15-foot deep sinkhole that closed the highway for the next three weeks.

Here’s the thing with emergent situations like the sinkhole: the things we don’t know tend to greatly outnumber the things we do. If you’re acquainted with many engineers, you know they like to plan. They like figures and formulas, details and measurements. They don’t like to guess. So you can only imagine how they feel when faced with a problem that has more questions than answers.

The good news is – we have some of the best engineers in the field, and they always step up to the plate and deliver solutions and results.

After coordinating closely with the City of Winlock and local elected officials to determine a plan of action, the engineering team from our Kelso office set out with contractor Tapani Underground Inc. to inspect the broken culvert.

Fortunately, inspection work yielded the answers needed to undertake repairs. Twenty four feet of the century-old concrete pipe had cracked, and leaking water had eroded the surrounding dirt and undermined the highway. Crews worked diligently to remove the damaged pipe and replace it with a new concrete box culvert.

The repair work, like everything we do, was a group effort. At one point, our contractor’s saw malfunctioned while they were in the process of removing the old culvert. The Winlock Public Works department stepped in without hesitation and lent a saw to the crew, which allowed work to continue without delay.

Our contractor also went the extra mile to make sure the repairs moved forward as quickly as possible. Tapani Underground Inc. called around and located an off-the shelf culvert that was ready for installation. Rather than waiting for a replacement culvert to be made from scratch, they were able to install the precast culvert and accelerate repairs by a week.

Crews repaved SR 505 and opened the road to drivers on Friday, April 20.

From start to finish, the project illustrated that teamwork and initiative are essential when responding to unexpected issues that are bound to crop up along the thousands of miles in the state highway system. We’re proud to be part of the network of people, agencies and companies that are dedicated to keeping Washington drivers moving.