Built in 1951, the South Yamhill River Bridge is approaching the end of its functional lifespan as many components are in serious condition. The bridge, which has a timber substructure and a concrete deck, has been eating up a good deal of time from ODOT personnel as they strive to keep it functioning.
“Our maintenance units have been putting Band-Aids on the bridge for the last 25 years,” says Vidal Francis, a Resident Engineer with ODOT, who is responsible for administering the construction contract on the project. “It’s time to replace the old bridge.” ODOT has managed to maintain the bridge very well and enabled it to not have a weight limit.
The bridge, which has an average daily traffic count of 16,000 vehicles, is critical to the area. Besides serving the residential population in the area, it’s used by local emergency services as a hospital is located nearby.
The focus of the project is replacing the bridge. The current bridge is 35 feet wide, while the new bridge will be wider at 49 feet. In addition to the two four lanes of traffic, the bridge will have two 7-foot-wide shoulders and sidewalks on both sides available for pedestrians and bicyclists. Including this segment of the bridge fits into ODOT’s mission of being multimodal wherever they can be.
The previous bridge was 900 feet long, while the new one will be 970 feet. To accommodate the change in length and width, some road work is being done near the approaches.
“We are not permitted to build access roads in the area due to the floodplain and environmental concerns,” says Eric Holland, a Project Manager with Wildish Standard Paving Co, the general contractor overseeing the project. To overcome this access challenge, the team has put down wood mats to support equipment and transport materials.
Shutting the road down and inputting a detour would be burdensome. Therefore, the project includes building a diversion structure or temporary bridge to support traffic in the area. Once the temporary bridge is complete, the team will build the new bridge. Upon completion of the new bridge, the temporary bridge will be taken down.
The area includes quite a few utilities including water, sewer, and electrical. Currently, the utilities are spread out with some going over the bridge, some under and some through the water. Rearranging the utilities is part of the project. They will all be moved under the new structure.
“Since it’s a new structure, it’s an optimal time to relocate the utilities,” Vidal says. “Having all the utilities together, rather than in a loose conglomerate, will limit risk and real estate that they currently occupy and make any future disturbances easier to address.”
“They’ve been very responsive to public and agency request on mitigating any immediate concerns resulting from construction activity,” says Vidal. “Being proactive and having foresight are always welcome and Wildish has been great at looking ahead for the obstacles.”
Tim Hendrix, a Manager for Wildish, says the company has worked with ODOT and Vidal and his office successfully in the past. “He’s a good partner and is active in solving complex field problems.”
The budget for the project is $30 million. It is being funded by federal and state dollars via a 90/10 split. Maintaining the budget has been a challenge according to Hendrix. “This is a historically unprecedented time in terms of the rising cost of materials,” says Hendrix. “Since the project was bid in January 2021, maintaining the budget has been a significant challenge for the contractor and ODOT.” Coupled with the materials increases, there has been an extreme shortage of workers in the field.
Construction on the project began in May 2021 and is expected to complete in December 2024. As of now, the project is on schedule. This is despite an issue with an existing utility – a 12-inch sewer line that had to be relocated though it was not noted in design. “Wildish came up with solutions for the problem,” Vidal says. “We had to do extra work that was not in the contract, but it put us in a position to be more effective during future construction.”
Other concerns are environmentally related. The team is hoping to start work earlier near the river in anticipation of an early in-water work extension. According to Vidal, the team needs to get work done around the river because of the limiting work window that constrains the schedule.
Upon completion of the new bridge, users will have a structure that meets current safety and design standards and is wider to better accommodate different types of transportation.
“We work closely with communities to meet their needs and support their ability to be a community by providing infrastructure and helping build their economy,” says ODOT Public Information Officer Angela Beers-Seydel. “This project represents all of that.”