Working behind a curtain by day and on bridge rail by night, the con-struction crew performs rehabilitation work on the historic Caveman Bridge generally out of sight and mind for most Grants Pass residents.
Prime contractor HP Civil Inc. of Stayton constructed a work platform attached by cables under the bridge. The work platform provides safe and sturdy access to the belly of 86-year-old bridge, which spans the Rogue River as the gateway to the Redwood Empire in southwest Oregon and northern California. The $5.3 million rehabilitation project is Caveman Bridge’s first major upgrade since its construction in 1931.
Strengthening Caveman Bridge involves repairing exposed steel rebar, injecting the cracks with epoxy, and installing titanium rebar. After the bridge work is completed, the historic gateway sign on the north side of the bridge will also undergo rehabilitation by the city of Grants Pass.
“During the winter, crews are repairing the bridge’s concrete and performing crack injections,” said ODOT Project Manager Tim Fletcher. “The curtain helps contain dust and maintain a moderate temperature for the rehabilitation work.”
Single-lane closures allow the construction workers to cut the old bridge rail out and replace it with a new rail with an identical design that meets today’s safety standards. ODOT and the contractor will schedule 12 full-night closures, from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., as needed over the course of the two-year project. Special provisions in the project scheduled no-work weekends to avoid conflicts with community events.
Grants Pass celebrates Boatnik every Memorial Day weekend. The Grants Pass Active Club has hosted the annual multi-day celebration since 1959. Families enjoy the event throughout the community, including the downtown parade and boat races on the Rogue River.
Prime contractor HP Civil Inc. of Stayton has stated its goal to replace the Caveman Bridge rail before the Boatnik celebration.
“The project’s construction schedule was designed to reduce impacts to businesses and travelers as well as support the community events vital to Grants Pass,” said ODOT Project Information Specialist Gary Leaming. “The rehabilitation work is moving along on schedule, so we’re confident the contractor will meet its goal.”
Last summer, the Grants Pass City Council inquired whether the agency had considered widening the bridge to comply with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
The ODOT project development team investigated how to widen the sidewalks at its narrowest points — two feet, eight inches — where the bridge arches meet the walkway.
The team worked with the State Historic Preservation Office. Three options were researched: (1) curb extensions, also known as bulb-outs or bump-outs; (2) widening the sidewalk along the entire length of the bridge; and (3) narrowing the bridge rail. Unfortunately, those three options were determined to have an adverse effect on the historic bridge.
ODOT recently submitted an alternate plan to remove a three-inch decorative rail from each of the bridge arches where it meets the sidewalk. The State Historic Preservation Office approved the request. The current pinch point is two feet, eight inches.
“It’s not a lot, but it is a lot,” said Randy Samuelson, Executive Director of the Handicap Awareness and Support League. “It’s a huge first step, those three inches. It shows we’re moving in the right direction for those who are disabled.”
With the removal of the decorative rail, the new minimum width will be two feet, 11 inches or 35 inches.
“The need for better accessibility wasn’t envisioned when the bridge was built in 1931,” said ODOT Area Manager Art Anderson. “While this won’t be quite as wide as we’d hoped, it will be more accommodating for everyone.”