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OR 43: Oregon City/West Linn Arch Bridge

Project Summary: The historic Oregon City/West Linn Arch Bridge spanning the Willamette River has been a source of community pride since its opening in December 1922. However, after more than 88 years, this famous old bridge is in need of repairs.  Throughout the bridge, the deck, joints, rails, lighting and protective coating of the arch span require repair and replacement.
Work on the bridge began in summer 2010. The full closure of the bridge started on Jan. 15, 2011, and is expected to be reopened to traffic in late 2012.  To protect the safety of all, the narrow bridge must be closed for approximately two years.  Vehicles will detour over the nearby I-205 Abernethy Bridge.  A shuttle service accommodates bicycle and pedestrian travel throughout construction.
ODOT is sharing information and project updates in a periodic electronic newsletter.  If you would like to receive the newsletter, please email Susan.C.Hanson@odot.state.or.us.  Your information will not be shared.  
Latest Information:
(as of July 2012)

Oregon City/West Linn Bridge Rehabilitation Update 

Update—July 2012

Bridge Re-opens to Traffic October 15, 2012
ODOT is pleased to announce that the Oregon City/West Linn Bridge is scheduled to re-open to traffic early Monday morning, October 15.


In conjunction with the re-opening of this community icon, the Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition is planning a three-day Willamette Falls Festival—Friday, October 14 through Sunday, October 14.  ODOT’s re-dedication of the Arch Bridge is on Sunday afternoon.  The Bridge will be open for pedestrians and bicyclists but closed to vehicle traffic from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon.  Come and share in this unique opportunity to stroll the historic bridge and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Falls.

The Coalition invites you to join in celebrating the reopening of the Historic Arch Bridge during this fun-filled 3-day festival October 12th-14th in downtown Oregon City and West Linn. Check their web site for more details, Willamette Falls Festival. 
Bridge Construction Update
The contractor, Wildish Standard Paving, is working both days and evenings. Here are the highlights
·         Installation of new bridge pylons begins.  Later, the replica historic lights will be mounted on these large obelisks.
·         Installation continues on the sidewalks and railings on both ends of the bridge.
·         Painting the bridge begins on the Oregon City side.  The original bridge was painted grey and we found a spot on the bridge with the original color.  So that color will be matched. 
Traffic Impacts—Week of July 30, 2012

·         There will be lane closures on 99E, one lane in each direction north and southbound, between the tunnel and 10th Street from 7 am to 3:30 pm.  At night there will be multiple lanes closed between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Shuttle News

We have carried 57,257 riders since the shuttle started on January 15, 2011.  This total includes 9,300 bicyclist trips.

Shuttle Service Ends on October 14, 2012

The Bridge Shuttle service will end when the Arch Bridge re-opens on Monday, October 15.  The last trip will be on Sunday, October 14 at 10:30 p.m.
Parade detours
The shuttle will have an occasional minor detour on specific Sataurdays due to summer parades on Main Street in Oregon City.  Look fo rdetour information prior to each parade in the shuttle information kiosks.

Click here to see the Weekly Construction Report for any traffic impacts. 
For a current shuttle schedule, click here 
If you have any questions about the project, please contact me. If you would like to be to receive project update news, send me your email address.

Susan Hanson, Community Affairs Coordinator, ODOT


Project Information
/ODOT/HWY/REGION1/or43_willamette_river_br/currentbridge.jpgThe Oregon City/West Linn Arch Bridge on Oregon Highway 43 opened on Jan. 1, 1923.  This bridge has served the communities well for 89 years.  More than 13,500 vehicles and 200-300 bicyclists and walkers cross the bridge each day.  Inspections have revealed some corrosion of the underlying steel structure, damaged railings and the need for resurfacing the bridge deck and the Oregon City approach.
This bridge and many other beautiful Oregon bridges are the legacy of Conde B. McCullough, who was considered one of the top bridge engineers in the world.  He designed more than 30 arches bridges in Oregon at a time when travel by automobile was not common.  This project is an opportunity to restore this one-of-a-kind bridge and maintain the significant link between Oregon City and West Linn.
When the project is complete, this architectural treasure will be restored and its life-span extended to serve the community for years to come.

Traffic Impacts
Effective Jan. 15, 2011, the bridge is closed to all traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians. The closure is expected to last 24 months.  Read the weekly construction news which highlights the traffic impacts on a weekly basis, updated every Friday.
The bridge is anticipated to reopen to traffic in late 2012.  The overall project is expected to be completed by 2013.
Detour Route for Motorists
Signs have been placed on Interstate 205 directing motorists to use the I-205 Abernethy Bridge to cross the Willamette River between West Linn and Oregon City.  It is less than 1 mile from the Arch Bridge.
Shuttle Service for Pedestrians and Bicyclists
A free shuttle service is available 7 days a week.  Details of the shuttle service along with the schedule and stops are available here. 
Businesses in Downtown Oregon City are open
Access to all businesses in downtown Oregon City is open throughout the project. Signs direct motorists to business access points from Oregon Highway 99E.

Frequently Asked Questions
What repairs are needed?
Remarkably, the bridge has not needed any major renovation since it was built.  During an inspection a few years ago, ODOT found some damage to the structural steel under the Gunite (concrete) coating which could weaken the structure over time if not repaired.  Also, the Gunite coating has cracked with age and portions of it have been adversely affected by water.
Repairs being made are:   
• The existing Gunite on the arches will be removed.  The steel structure underneath will be examined for corrosion or damage and repairs will be made.
• The Gunite will be replaced with a new coating of Shotcrete to protect the steel underneath.
• Several support beams on the roadway deck have corrosion damage and need to be repaired and replaced.
• The bridge deck/roadway will be resurfaced.
• The approach on the Oregon City side of the bridge will be repaired and improved.
• The ornate bridge railings will be replaced with railings that appear nearly identical, but are composed of structural steel hidden within the concrete.
• New roadway lighting will be installed including replicas of the original lights.

What kinds of repairs are allowed?
This bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Because of this historic designation, ODOT must follow the Secretary of Interior’s standards for rehabilitation. Visually, the bridge must look as close as possible to original, while providing safe use by the public.

Will the bridge be widened?
No, the arch ribs cannot be moved to fit a wider roadway. Adding lanes to the outside of the bridge cannot be supported by the existing structure. Widening the road would, also, adversely affect adjacent buildings in Oregon City. Since the bridge is historic, these changes would not be allowed.
Is the bridge made of solid concrete?
The main arch span over the river may look like a concrete bridge but it is really made of steel.  To protect the steel from corrosion, portions were either encased in concrete or were covered with Gunite.  Gunite was a relatively new product in 1922 and it was a mix of cement and sand that was sprayed on the bridge using high air pressure. 
The Gunite is being removed by hydroblasting. This process uses high pressure water to break up the Gunite.  The byproducts of the process are water, steam and debris. ODOT is capturing all the water and debris that is removed to dispose of it in an environmentally approved manner.
Will the weight restriction be lifted?
ODOT has a weight restriction on the bridge and it is currently closed to all commercial motor vehicles and all vehicles weighing more than 14 tons. When the rehabilitation project is complete, ODOT expects to lift the weight restriction.
Who is the Contractor?
The contractor for this project is Wildish Standard Paving Co., headquartered in Eugene.  Wildish was selected based on its experience with other historic bridge rehabilitation projects and a demonstrated ability to get the job done safely, economically and quickly--with a sharp eye on quality.
T.C. Wildish started the company in 1935 with a single truck in which he hauled gravel. Today, second, third and fourth generation family members continue to own the business which supports family wage jobs for 400+ employees.  The company performs well over $100M of work annually throughout Oregon.  Project leadership for the Arch Bridge project is provided by Scott Vogl and Josh Smith.  The company is managed by 35-year Wildish employee, Tim Hendrix.

Who is involved in the project?
ODOT has worked closely with the cities of Oregon City and West Linn, Clackamas County and Downtown Oregon City throughout the development of this project.  A Bicycle/Pedestrian Task Force advised ODOT on how to accommodate cyclists and walkers during the closure of the bridge.  The Task Force was composed of representatives of the Cities, County, Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Downtown Oregon City.    
What is the project cost?
Original Construction Contract: $10.6 million
Sources:   Federal Funds 89.7%; State funds 10.3%
Read archived project updates (March 2009 - March 2012)

History of the Bridge
/ODOT/HWY/REGION1/or43_willamette_river_br/oregoncitydetourmap.jpgThis historic bridge linking Oregon City with West Linn was officially opened on Jan. 1, 1923. It was designed by Conde McCullough, the Oregon State bridge engineer who is primarily known for building many of Oregon’s coastal bridges on U.S. Highway 101.
Before McCullough built this bridge, an old wooden suspension bridge constructed in 1888 connected both sides of the river.  The old bridge, however, could not carry the additional traffic expected with the new Pacific Highway (Oregon Highway 99E). 
McCullough studied this location for two years trying to determine what type of bridge would work.  A steel arch, in which the roadway is support partway up the arch, was what he finally chose.  McCullough had constructed many arch bridges for Oregon’s highways.  However, this bridge was his first where the roadway was not on top of the arch or below the arch but in-between.
The roadway is supported between two massive 350-foot arch ribs.  Each arch rib is actually a series of individual hollow steel boxes end to end.  McCullough used the old suspension bridge to support the individual boxes as they were being connected.  Once all of the arch boxes were put together, he built the columns that hold the roadway up and the hangers that suspend the roadway from above.  Finally, he installed the beams that directly supported the roadway. 

To prevent rusting, he encased the exposed steel members in a concrete covering called Gunite.  Gunite was a combination of sand and cement that was mixed with water.  This mixture was blown by compressed air onto the steel surfaces.  Gunite was used instead of paint to protect the steel in the 1920s from the corrosive atmosphere generated by nearby mills. Today, the mills do not generate corrosive fumes but the bridge will be restored to its original appearance with a shotcrete coating.   
In 2005, the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is likely the only one of its type in the world.
Click here to view more historical photos of the bridge.

ODOT Contact Information
Susan Hanson, ODOT Community Affairs Coordinator
(503) 731-3490
Sign up for e-news about the project by sending your email address to Susan Hanson (address shown above).  Your information will not be shared.  Contact Susan for a print version of the e-news if you don't have email.