Lowly culverts keep floods at bay, fish at play and more

Crews trench through the road to install two culverts on US 20 east of Sweet Home.

When compared to, say, an art deco Conde McCullough bridge (think coastal bridges like Yaquina Bay or Siuslaw River), a culvert hardly rates as a majestic way to travel over water. But there are many more of them in Oregon than bridges (40,000 vs. 8,000), and they do an amazing job keeping our roads safe and passable – especially during the rainy season. Culverts also often make it possible for animals to safely pass by, too, where roads and development have blocked their way.

To help endear culverts to Oregonians, ODOT Communications created a series of videos explaining just how valuable – and underappreciated – culverts really are. The first video talks about the vital role culverts play and how many of them have reached the end of their design life. Though it will just a make a dent in the backlog of need, a project to repair or replace 17 culverts along I-5 is finishing up this fall between Goshen and Woodburn.

Allen Gillette explains how a modified culvert design helps lamprey reach spawning sites.

The second video describes how culverts do a multitude of tasks: move water, fish and wildlife, reduce wear and tear on roads and more. All that, and you probably don’t even know they are there. ODOT Senior Culvert Hydraulic Engineer Robert Trevis talks about our culvert system and some of the unique ways we inspect, maintain and repair them.

In the final video, Allen Gillette, ODOT Statewide Fish Passage Program coordinator, reviews how we’ve changed our culverts over the years to help fish and other animals pass through safely.

It might require reviewing all three videos, but we think you’ll appreciate the lowly culvert just a little bit more when you’re done. The playlist is on ODOT’s YouTube site. Enjoy!