Interstate traffic at Umatilla will be narrowed to a single bridge for more than a year as the older of the two Columbia River crossings that link Washington and Oregon undergoes a multimillion dollar facelift.
Work begins Monday to replace the deck of the steel truss bridge that carries Interstate 82 south into Oregon.
The deterioration landed it on the state’s list of more than 130 “structurally deficient” bridges, the lone Benton County structure on the list. A structurally deficient rating reflects normal wear and tear. It does not mean a bridge is unsafe.
Originally known as the Umatilla-Plymouth Bridge, it opened April 15, 1955, in a ceremony that included the governors of both states. The bridge replaced a ferry and dramatically shortened travel times between Eastern Washington and Portland.
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The original $5 million construction cost was funded by bonds and repaid with tolls collected from motorists.
Now the road surface is heavily pitted after years of wear and exposure to weather and marine conditions.
It will take two construction seasons to replace nearly one mile of decking. The project was funded in the 2017-19 biennium.
Originally known as the Umatilla-Plymouth Bridge, it opened April 15, 1955, in a ceremony that included the governors of both states. The bridge replaced a ferry and dramatically shortened travel times between Eastern Washington and Portland. The original $5 million construction cost was funded by bonds and repaid with tolls collected from motorists.
The transportation department awarded the contract to Spokane-based Max J. Kuney Co. in April. Kuney submitted the winning bid of $9.5 million to perform the work.
The 1955 bridge gained a twin in 1988, when a second bridge opened to carry traffic headed into Washington. Together, the I-82 Umatilla Bridges handle an estimated 8,150 vehicles daily.
For the duration of the project, the newer span will accommodate traffic in both directions.
Oregon-bound traffic will initially be narrowed to a single lane on the older bridge while workers build the detour.
After July 4, all traffic will be routed to the 1988 bridge, with a single lane for each direction. The speed limit will be reduced for safety but officials do not expect the work to have a substantial impact on traffic.
The detour will remain in effect throughout the construction, which is expected to last until next fall. Replacing the deck is one of two projects contemplated for the aging structure.
The transportation department says it also needs a new paint job.
Painting the steel trusses will cost upwards of $40 million and is expected to be funded in the 2021-23 biennium.
Washington and Oregon share responsibility for nine “Border Bridges,” including the two at Umatilla while Washington takes the lead in planning maintenance.
The other Border Bridges include the Astoria Megler Bridge at the mouth of the Columbia, the Lewis and Clark Bridge near Longview, the Interstate 5 and Glenn Jackson bridges at Portland, The Dalles Bridge and the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge at Biggs Junction.
The picturesque Bridge of the Gods, which crosses the Columbia at Cascade Locks, is managed by a local port district.