Construction is underway to replace the aging and deficient Applegate River Bridge on U.S. 199 south of Grants Pass. The bridge is a vital connection between Interstate 5, the Illinois Valley, northern California and the Oregon coast.
Prime contractor Carter and Company of Salem began work on the $5.9 million project last April. The first stage of the project includes building the approaches of a temporary bridge just to the north of the existing structure. By July, the contractor will be able to work below the Applegate River’s ordinary high water mark.
When the existing bridge was built in 1955, about 2,000 vehicles crossed the 547-foot span daily. By 2011, the number of vehicles had increased to 10,300 per day. The bridge’s narrow 30-foot roadway and bridge rails do not meet today’s safety standards.
“We repaired the Applegate River Bridge more than 10 years ago when it was in serious need of attention,” said ODOT Lead Bridge Engineer Bob Grubbs. “It’s good to replace it with a new bridge because it’s flat worn out.”
Even after the repair work was finished, oversize loads still needed to use nearby Oregon 260 to detour around the bridge.
The new bridge will use pre-stressed concrete beams. Nearly 50-feet wide, the bridge will feature two 12-foot travel lanes with two 10-foot shoulders. The bridge will be slightly wider on the west end to accommodate a new turn lane at Riverbanks Road.
According to Grubbs, the new railings will meet today’s safety standards and, unlike the existing bridge that has six supports in the river channel, the new structure will only have two.
“The key is to build the bridge without seriously affecting traffic,” said ODOT Project Information Specialist Dan Latham. “That’s why a temporary bridge is being constructed. We want to keep traffic moving.”
According to Latham, the new bridge will be built on the same alignment. The detour structure is designed to be as wide as the old bridge.
Drivers are contending with traffic delays as the temporary bridge is being built. Flaggers are controlling traffic as dump trucks bring in fill material for the temporary bridge’s approaches and supports.
“It’s a pretty tight dance for the first stages of the project,” said Latham. “The compact rollers are working as the trucks come in to dump their loads and, then, turn around and go back out the same way.”
U.S. 199 traffic will switch to the temporary bridge, so Prime contractor Carter and Company can begin demolition on the old structure.