The next three months will see two of the agency’s original bridges receiving their first extensive rehabilitation in nearly a century.
Through the end of August, the Dollarhide and Steinman Overcrossings located on Old Siskiyou Highway (Oregon 273) will get a makeover that will make them look like they did when Woodrow Wilson was sworn in as president in 1913.
Prime contractor West Coast Contractors began the project last month, which includes replacing bridge rails; cleaning and repairing cracked walls and spalled (flaking) girders; removing and replacing the road surface; and rehabilitating the historic rock wall.
The construction work requires a six-week closure on each bridge with the Steinman Overcrossing currently closed. It is scheduled to reopen at the end of this month. The rest of the work can be completed with flaggers providing traffic control. Dollarhide is scheduled to be reopened by the end of August.
“We’ve worked closely with emergency service providers, the US Postal Service, and newspaper carriers to prepare for the bridge closures,” said Public Service Representative Dennis Steers. “And of course we’ve had several mailings to homeowners on the route, as well as a May open house.”
Primarily used by homeowners living along the Old Siskiyou Highway, the Steinman (milepost 3.6) and Dollarhide (milepost 4.7) Overcrossings are load-limited to prevent heavier vehicles from crossing the bridges.
“This rehabilitation project won’t change load limits on these bridges,” said ODOT Bridge Engineer Bob Grubbs. “The repairs are only designed to maintain the current capacity.”
Steers added that the low traffic volume on the Old Siskiyou Highway doesn’t warrant the need for a larger repair or replacement project. The project’s overall budget is $955,000.
The cost to construct these two bridges was shared by the state, Jackson County and the Southern Pacific Railroad.
“Jackson County was proactive in tapping the state’s engineering expertise to design the bridges for consistency and state funding,” said ODOT Historian Christopher Bell. “The State Highway Department was looking for an opportunity to provide technical oversight.”
Built by prime contractor J.W. Sweeney, the Dollarhide and Steinman Overcrossings have a storied place in Oregon’s transportation history.
Historic Highway Bridges of Oregon, by Dwight A Smith, James B. Norman, and Pieter T. Tykman, notes the “[Steinman Overcrossing] is the only known switchback on Oregon’s highway system where the roadway passes both under and over the structure.”
The book states the Dollarhide Overcrossing was built for a cost of $5,900.
According to Bell, a lot of drama was associated with the construction and the project ran into cost overruns ultimately resolved in court. However, the rough beginnings didn’t detour the State Highway Department.
“The Dollarhide and Steinman Overcrossings started the department’s work on US 99. The Department was also beginning to focus on another well known roadway, the Columbia River Highway,” Bell said. “From its inception, the state highway department was interested in building a modern road network around Oregon.”
The Bureau of Public Roads, a precursor to the Federal Highway Administration, was concerned about bridge construction. Oregon understood the need and the value, so the department focused on safety and consistency in bridge construction.