A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Check out that crack in the bridge

Written March 14th, 2014 by Hasso Hering

Ready for another fascinating report from the wilds of Albany’s riverside bike and walking trail, the Dave Clark Path? The path happens to be part of one of my favorite short cycling routes around town. So what about those cracks in one of the piers holding up the Portland & Western bridge across the Willamette River?

On Friday I stopped on the trail to take a closer look at the debris built up on the southern-most pier during the winter. If it’s left in place it will likely get bigger, Canoeists and other boaters will have another hazard to look out for. Two years ago the railroad eventually hired a contractor to loosen a similar but much bigger pile of woody debris on the center pier and let it float downstream.

I also noticed for the first time what looks like a pretty good-size series of cracks in the concrete. I’m sure it’s been there for a while, maybe years or even decades. But I hadn’t seen it before. I hope it doesn’t mean the bridge has a problem. (If anybody at ODOT or the railroad sees this, I’d appreciate a comment on the status and soundness of the bridge in view of that concrete damage.)

The bridge was built in 1921 and was constructed so it could turn to make room for riverboats with tall superstructures. I don’t know when it was last opened, but it can’t be opened now. When the skipper of the Willamette Queen riverboat wanted to go downstream during high water in the late 1990s, he demanded that the Coast Guard or somebody order the bridge opened. But he was rebuffed, and the boat managed to make the trip anyway. It hasn’t been up this way since, not because of the  bridge but because of the general shoaling of the river, which hasn’t been dredged since the 1970s. (hh)

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