City News

River Road reopened after rockslide

Updated, 12:09 p.m. Thursday

South River Road fully reopened around noon on Thursday, after a four-day closure following a rockslide.

A single lane of traffic opened Thursday morning, guided by flaggers, the city of Salem announced Wednesday evening. Both lanes reopened Thursday afternoon.

The road closed the morning of Sunday, Jan. 28, from South Owens Street to the entrance of Minto-Brown Island Park as crews evaluated the conditions.

The rockslide blocked the road with about 30 cubic yards of material, about three dump truck loads, said city spokesman Trevor Smith in a Sunday statement.

A geologist and Salem engineers assessed the slide on Monday, which revealed that sections of the hillside needed loose rock removal. A contractor began work to remove the debris on Wednesday.

“City of Salem staff and contractors worked to dislodge and remove a considerable amount of loose and unstable rock from the hillside,” a Thursday statement from the city said. “All cleanup activities are expected to be complete Thursday afternoon.”

The hillside is considered stable, the statement said, but “the dangers of falling rocks in the area will remain until permanent solutions are identified and funded.”

In a Facebook comment Thursday, the city said that a more permanent fix for the hillside will be “extremely complicated and expensive.”

“The narrow roadway, train tracks on the west, and homes up above to the east provide a combination of challenges to building a retaining wall to hold the hillside in place,” the comment said. “What I can tell you is that the City of Salem understands these concerns and is actively seeking help from our State and National transportation partners. This includes identifying partnerships and grant opportunities for improvements to River Road S.”

The city will continue monitoring the hillside with drones and consulting engineers and geologists, the statement said.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-575-1251.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.