Arch Cape Tunnel project finishes ahead of schedule

Arch Cape Tunnel
This photo from inside Arch Cape Tunnel on U.S. 101 shows the contrast between the old lights, on the left, and the new lights.

There has, for some, been at least one positive side effect of COVID-19: lower traffic volumes. Contractors for ODOT recently took advantage of that and finished the U.S. 101: Arch Cape Tunnel Lighting Replacement Project two weeks early.

In late March, ODOT’s Highway Region 2 staff noticed traffic had declined significantly on U.S. 101. Construction managers in Astoria saw an opportunity at the Arch Cape Tunnel, which was undergoing a major project to replace the lighting system.

“Because of the lower traffic volumes, we were able to allow the contractor to extend the daily lane closure times, which in turn allowed longer working shifts,” said ODOT Resident Engineer Jayson Buchholz. “This resulted in the contractor, Aaken Electric Corp., finishing the project early.”

The Arch Cape Tunnel is on U.S. 101 about five miles south of Cannon Beach in Clatsop County. The project replaced the tunnel’s entire lighting system, including the lights, wiring, support systems and anchors attached to the structure. The tunnel opened in 1937 and its lighting was last replaced in 1998. 

As part of the project, the contractor also installed pedestrian and bicycle signals on both sides of the tunnel. When activated, the signals warn motorists that someone is in the tunnel.

During construction, there were no complete closures of the tunnel. One lane of traffic remained open during construction with flaggers controlling two-way traffic.  “We are pleased to get this important project completed early. The new lights and signals are going to add safety and visibility for everyone using the tunnel for many years to come,” Buchholz said.