A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Taking a last look at those old beams

Written March 20th, 2024 by Hasso Hering

Crossing the Ellsworth Street bridge on Tuesday, and looking at the cross braces overhead.

For nearly 47 years, I’ve crossed the Willamette River on the Ellsworth Street bridge in Albany almost every day, usually driving a vehicle, and on rare occasions riding a bike.

This spring and summer we users of this bridge are getting our last look at the overhead beams — engineers call them cross braces — that have been there for 99 years.

Starting Sunday night, March 24, the bridge will be closed overnight during the work week so a contractor for the Oregon Department of Transportation can begin replacing the braces with new ones higher up.

The plan originally was to raise the clearance under the beams from 14 feet 10.5  inches to 16 feet. That’s what ODOT still says online, and what the City of Albany repeated in its announcement of the impending project.

But as the project manager, James P. Doll, told me in an email last fall, the final design called for the clearance to be raised to 17 feet 2.5 inches.

ODOT continues to say online and through its regional spokeswoman that the project is costing $5.1 million, in addition to $736,000 allocated for design.

Wildish Standard Paving Co., based in Eugene, was awarded the construction contract based on its bid of $4,535,395.02. (Why those two pennies? No idea.)

Wildish’s bid was the lowest of five shown in ODOT’s tabulation of bids available online. The Oregon Bid Network reported that another company submitted the “apparent low bid” of about $3.7 million, but for whatever reason that bid evidently was not accepted.

The lights on the bridge are owned by the city. A year ago the Albany council agreed to pay up to $40,000 to move the lighting to the new beams.

To allow for the reconstruction of the overhead steel, the bridge will be closed from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. Sundays to Fridays through October. (But it will stay open on five Thursday nights when Albany stages the River Rhythms concerts.)

During the closures, southbound nighttime traffic across the river will be rerouted to one lane on the two-lane Lyon Street Bridge, with flaggers guiding the way, and then return to Ellsworth Street on First Avenue.

Now and then, some over-height equipment on a truck or trailer has hit and damaged the cross beams. ODOT says raising the beams will cut down on future maintenance expense.

Increasing the clearance will do nothing, of course, for the width, which means crossing the bridge on a bike will continue to be an adventure when a bus or a semi comes up from behind. (hh)

3 responses to “Taking a last look at those old beams”

  1. Katherine says:

    Why not use the Ellsworth walkway for crossing on a bike? Safer and not very likely to run into someone crossing on foot. If so you can dismount and walk past them.

  2. David Faller says:

    I think that at the same time the bridge should be power washed and painted.

  3. Richard S. says:

    That 2 cents that was questioned?
    That’s obvious:
    It was somebody throwing their “2 cents worth in”!

    Too bad we could not get a bigger bridge, or a bypass over to I5. The backups continue…


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