Our bridges: The “scour” concern

What's going on under water?

What's going on under water?

Our highway bridges over the Willamette River are not likely to fall down like the one on I-5 over the Skagit River. That one was of a design where failure of one member causes a collapse, and it got hit by a tall load. But there is one potential concern with the bridges we have in this area: They are vulnerable to scouring, meaning that the river may be undermining the foundations or piles on which the bridges rest.

ODOT inspects these bridges every two years and keeps reports on each. Last summer I obtained the latest inspection reports for some of our local bridges from Bruce Johnson, the state bridge engineer. These reports showed scour-critical ratings of 3 -- where 2 reflects "advanced deterioration" and 1 means "imminent failure" -- for the Ellsworth and Lyon Street bridges in Albany, the Van Buren and Harrison Street bridges in Corvallis, as well as the Willamette River bridges in Independence and Harrisburg, and the Santiam River bridge in Jefferson.

According to ODOT,  a rating of 3 reflects a "serious condition" and "local failures are possible." Johnson's words to me were not that dire, but he said a 3 rating was "not that good."

The good news? The inspection reports show that ODOT is keeping an eye out to make sure the ratings don't slip another notch or even two. (hh)

Mindless vandalism downtown?


I have no idea what the details of this story are because there was no one around to ask. What it looks like is that someone heaved a hefty chunk of concrete into the windshield of this car and left it where it fell. I shot this photo around noon on Saturday while walking up Broadalbin Street from the river, back to where we had left our own car near the Farmers' Market. I would not have thought that there's normally a great risk from vandalism in parking your car on a downtown Albany street. But this scene gives me pause. I hope that whoever did this -- because of mindless rage, a momentary destructive urge or just plain overwhelming stupidity -- is caught and held to account. Fat chance, I know. (hh)

Ted Salmons responded on May 26:  Sadly the basic definition of vandalism almost always includes the term mindless. Usually these non-thinkers that choose to destroy without reason do it because other than being clueless they have little fear of punishment even if caught. Now I'll admit that these criminals (yes I used that ugly word criminal instead of "misguided") don't need to be thrown into jail.  But.....  how about a couple of hundred hours of community service? Yes I know it costs the city/county money in the form of wages for those supervising people performing community service. But how about this as a part of the sentencing. The convicted person is required to pay for the supervision of his/her community service. If they want one on one supervision they pay the full price. If several come to an "agreement" they can split the cost and do their community service together.  Oh, and as an incentive they're not eligible for any state funded services until their community service is completed. Harsh? Perhaps. But an attention getter?  Definitely.

My response: Sure, but first you gotta catch 'em. (hh)


Albany: Timber Street tract land in default

100_0681About 75 acres of undeveloped land surrounding Albany's Timber Ridge School is about to come into city ownership because the owners have made no payments on assessments for the street and utility lines there. Now it's just a question of how the transaction is done, the city council was told.

The land has been owned by the Brandis family of Corvallis. The city formed a local assessment district to build Timber Ridge Street and assessed property owners -- the Brandis family and the school district -- for the cost. The school district paid its assessment, but on two parcels north of Knox Butte Road, the family did not and is now in default.

The family trust did pay $15,000 toward its assessment on another 24 acres south of Knox Butte Road. Now it has offered to deed the city the northern parcels, saving the city the trouble of foreclosure, in return for a $120,000 credit against its assessment on the south 24 acres.

The council didn't much like that and agreed to make a counter offer: Deed us the north portion and we'll give you two additional years to become current on payments of the assessment on the south parcel, which otherwise would be in default if no payments are made by August.

The city used Pepsi settlement money to fund the street, water and sewer lines. Whether it gets the money back, by selling the land once the housing market has fully recovered, we'll have to wait the see. (hh)

Keeping up with our bridges

Albany's Willamette River bridges.

Albany's Willamette River bridges.

The collapse of a bridge on Interstate 5 north of Seattle once again reminds us that our bridges need constant attention, maintenance and occasional repairs. I can't say whether we're doing enough on that score in Oregon, but ODOT is certainly doing a lot.

A few weeks ago I mentioned the work to protect the Alsea Bay bridge on the coast from corrosion by giving it a new paint job. Freeway travelers know about the replacement bridges being built in Eugene and elsewhere. Last year the Santiam River Bridge at Jefferson cracked and had to be repaired. Albany's Ellsworth Street bridge has had two upgrades in the last 20 years. Just now, on May 29 and 30, it will be closed at night so steel supports can be replaced.

The damaged parts of the Santiam bridge had escaped notice until they cracked, but from most other experience we know ODOT takes pains to inspect bridges and prevent trouble before it has a chance to develop. Last year I looked at inspection reports on Albany and Corvallis highway bridges on the Willamette. They were functionally obsolete but in reasonable shape otherwise, and ODOT tries not to let them get worse. (hh)

Does council want a health sales tax?

Ron Green, last year's Democratic candidate in House District 15, presents the health care resolution to the council Monday.

Ron Green, last year's Democratic candidate in House District 15, presents the health care resolution to the council Monday.

At the urging of local members of Health Care for All-Oregon, the Albany City Council has let itself be pushed into backing a Democratic proposal before the legislature on health care.

The council Wednesday passed a resolution backing HB 3260. It would require the Oregon Health Authority to conduct a study of different health care financing schemes. The options to be studied would be a single-payer system like that in Canada, another allowing people to choose between private insurance and a publicly funded plan, a third that fully carries out the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and a publicly funded system paid for with a sales tax.

The Health Authority estimates that based on comparable work in New York state, the study would cost about $600,000, and the bill says it would be done only if donations or grants pay for it. My question: If New York already did it, why spend the money? Why not just read their report? And why push for this bill?

There's a reason the bill has been hung up in the Ways and Means Committee. There is opposition to it. It is clearly aimed at laying the groundwork for a Canadian-style, publicly funded insurance scheme, perhaps with a sales tax to back it up. Is that what the city council in Albany wants? I doubt it, but if not, the council should have refrained from expressing its support. (hh)

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