By Erin Zysett
POLK COUNTY -- Nine bridges in Polk County are curÿrently being repaired or rebuilt, or will be within the next year.
In 2003, Polk County reÿceived a $14.9 million grant from the Oregon Transportation Investment Act (OTIA). A speÿcific section of the act focuses on improving bridges.
According to the State of Oregon Website, "Projects seÿlected for OTIA funding do more than simply fix bridge or highway problems. The Legislaÿture, industry representatives, and citizens expect these proÿjects to provide an economic boost to Oregon's struggling economy, ensure efficient delivÿery routes for products and serÿvices, and help solve city and county transportation needs."
The first Polk County bridge to get a facelift was Wigrich Bridge, which reopened on Dec. 29, 2004 after three months of construction.
The second bridge to be reÿstructured was the Rickreall Bridge. It was closed to traffic on Sept. 9, 2004 and was reÿopened last Monday, Jan. 31.
The citizens in that area are not out of the woods yet. On July 5 the Greenwood Bridge will close to through traffic, and drivers will contend with anÿother few months of detours.
County officials expect to have the Greenwood Road bridge reopened by Nov. 18.
At least the residents of Rickÿreall have detours. Not so for people living near Airlie Road on the Luckiamute Creek -- they'll have to go miles out of their way to get anywhere when the county closes the Airlie Road Bridge on June 1.
The work is part of a three-bridge project in that area. Bridges being repaired by Conÿcrete Enterprises Inc. of Stayton are Buena Vista, Airlie Road, and Corvallis Road.
The Buena Vista Road Bridge and the Airlie Road Bridge will be closed from June 1 through the end of the year.
The third bridge, the Corvallis Road Bridge, won't be closed until the summer of 2006. It will serve as a detour route for the Buena Vista Bridge.
County Public Works Direcÿtor Aaron Geisler said that peoÿple living on the north side of the creek, and who now use the Airlie Street Bridge, unfortuÿnately are going to face a few months of long driving.
"We hope the Airlie Bridge project goes quickly, because it's such a long detour. People who live in that area should start making plans now," Geisler, said.
"We looked long and hard at building a temporary bridge (on Airlie Road), but it just wasn't cost-effective," he added.
The other big project, now nearing completion, is the Bridge Street Bridge in Falls City.
That span is the only way from one side of Falls City to the other. So the new bridge is being constructed beside the old bridge, and it will be open around June 1.
After the new Bridge Street Bridge opens, the old crossing will be torn down. Because of environmental regulations, crews will not begin destructing the old bridge until July 1.
The state requires that any bridge work that involves in-water work be done between July 1 and Sept. 30 so that fish runs are not disturbed.
The new Bridge Street Bridge has no supports in the water, so crews were able to complete the bridge before summer.
The final two bridges due for upgrades are in Grand Ronde. Construction on the Firehall Road and South Grand Ronde Road Bridges will begin June 1 and will last through the end of the year.
Grand Ronde Road will close completely, and traffic for that bridge will be diverted down Andy Riggs Road, which the county will connect through to Firehall Road.
Drivers will then be chanÿneled back and forth over Fireÿhall Bridge through the open side.
This final stage of construcÿtion is expected to last through the end of 2005, perhaps longer.
"The area out there is all rock" Geisler said.
"The river really eats heavy on the south side. It scours the shore, so we have to use some special techniques there."