POLK COUNTY -- For years, traffic across the Marion Street Bridge from Salem came through Polk County mostly to get to the Coast. Since the fall of 1995, gamblers have flocked to Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde, the number one tourist destination in Oregon. When combined with the area's growth, this has resulted in bridge congestion.
Polk County Commissioners Tom Ritchey and Mike Propes met with Salem, Keizer, Yamhill County and state officials June 4 to once again discuss building a new bridge across the Willamette River.
Ritchey said he wants to make sure people can cross easily. "From the Polk County side, we're interested in seeing that folks can travel efficiently."
Thirteen bridge sites had been identified originally, Ritchey said. That number has been narrowed to two -- one in North Salem and one in South Salem.
Ritchey and Propes want to consider both options, though the northern bridge received more support at the meeting. "We want to make sure we don't close out all our options until we analyze all of them.
"We're pushing to see that avenues are not closed down for Polk County people to get to where they're going, whether that's up to Portland or wherever else, not necessarily downtown Salem."
Any new bridge or bridges would come many years in the future, Ritchey said. He guessed eight to 10 years.
That's why a bridge location is being sought now. "If we don't reserve property and purchase it for further use," Ritchey said, "it could be another 10 years" from that point.