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Washington's Skagit River Bridge

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The collapse of the Skagit River Bridge in May led Oregon media to ask about the state of bridges in this state.

Oregon has about 65 bridges with a steel through-truss design, the same used on the Skagit River Bridge. ODOT inspects bridges at least once every two years – more often as the condition of the bridge declines. Inspections help prioritize bridge repair investments.

ODOT has addressed Oregon’s aging bridges for more than 12 years. Environmental assessments of state bridges began in 2001, and the Economic and Bridge Options Report contributed to the passage of the 2003 Oregon Transportation Investment Act (OTIA III).

ODOT focused on bridges built with a reinforced concrete deck girder design that was used during the interstate-construction era of the late 1950s. The agency’s report revealed that these bridges were nearing or past their life expectancy. Many bridges had weakened to the point of requiring load limits.

ODOT’s $1.3 billion OTIA III State Bridge Delivery Program is wrapping up the repair and replacement of hundreds of bridges across the state to ensure the unrestricted movement of freight and spur economic growth. Building on the success of the first two phases of the OTIA program, the Legislature issued state bonds to finance $1.3 billion in work on state bridges, $300 million for local bridge projects and $86 million for city and county projects.

Work on the bridge program occurred in five overlapping stages, grouped by highway corridors across the state. This strategy helped keep traffic moving during construction and created unrestricted freight routes for commercial vehicles. It also allowed contractors to achieve economies of scale in performing design work, ordering materials, and mobilizing equipment and labor, which reduced program costs.

Oregonians had not seen an investment of this magnitude in highway and bridge construction since the state’s interstate freeway system was built in the 1950s and ’60s.

Of the 365 bridges in the program, seven are currently under construction and another 263 have been completed and open to traffic.

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