Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Construction begins next week on the Bridge of the Gods and will require the bridge to be closed to traffic as crews work around the clock to repair the aging structure and allow heavy trucks to cross the span once again.
Port of Cascade Locks Interim General Manager Paul Koch said work will begin on Friday, Oct. 11 to repair or replace the gussets (connecting pieces) of the main span and Oct. 31 for the stringers (support beams). The work will require the Bridge of the Gods to be closed seven days a week from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. until the project’s completion, which is expected to be at the end of the year, although Koch noted that there was “some chance that weather or any construction delays might push that into mid-January 2014.” He added that “emergency vehicles will be able to cross the bridge at all times during the repair work” and that the port is “developing a plan to extend the time limit on passes and coupons so that regular users are not harmed.”
The Oregon Department of Transportation reduced the weight limit of the Bridge of the Gods in July from 40-30 tons down to 8 tons after an ODOT load analysis showed dozens of gussets and stringers needed to be repaired or replaced due to rust and corrosion. The change in weight restrictions effectively banned most trucks from using the bridge and has forced more truckers onto Washington State Route 14 and the Hood River Bridge.
After pleading with the state to declare a regional economic emergency to help leverage funding for the bridge repairs, the Port of Cascade Locks was awarded a Statewide Transportation Improvement Program grant in late August that will cover the estimated $1.14 million cost of repairing the bridge.
Work on the bridge will be managed by ODOT and contracted out to two different construction companies. Although the bridge will be closed at night during the repair job, Koch didn’t anticipate there being any full bridge closures during the day.
“There might be some one-way closures, but that has not come up yet,” he said.
Once the repairs are over, Koch said it is “anticipated that ODOT will revisit the weight limit on the bridge the first part of January and redo the weight limitation, returning it to 80,000 pounds.”
The Port of Cascade Locks is also currently considering raising bridge tolls, which are currently $1 per car, to “help pay for annual maintenance” on the bridge, according to Koch. A series of town hall meetings are tentatively planned for later this month so the public can supply the port with input on the toll hike. Koch said there are currently “a series of preliminary proposals from (an increase of) 25 cents to a doubling of the toll for heavy trucks,” but noted that “nothing has been decided yet.”
“A final decision will not be made until November, with the goal of having the new toll in place beginning Jan. 1, 2014,” he said.