Road Ends for Old Bridge; Deconstruction of the 47-year-old Span on I-5 Starts Next Week

GreenWorks will soon begin design services as part of the I-5 WRB Design Enhancements, a reconstruction of  the I-5 replacement bridge over the Willamette River:

"GreenWorks of Portland, partnering with artists Lee Imonen, Adam Kuby and Suzanne Lee, will design a south bank interpretive area, which includes the old Eugene Millrace, river channel restoration and the south bank bicycle and pedestrian path, underpass and viaduct."

See the full article from the Register-Guard below:


The Register-Guard

A river runs underneath them. That much we know. That, of course, is why the bridges are there.

But it’s finally time for the old one to come down starting next week, after almost four months of removal preparation. Meanwhile, traffic will continue to zip along Interstate 5, and over the Willamette River, on the temporary bridge constructed in 2004. And even though the I-5 replacement bridge over the river isn’t scheduled for completion until December 2012, traffic should be diverted from the five-year-old temporary bridge to the southbound portion of the new bridge within 18 months.

But how in the world do you dismantle the old bridge, built in 1962, without blasting it with dynamite?

“Chewing action,” said Dick Upton, the bridge’s project manager for the state Department of Transportation.

Crews will begin using excavators with jackhammer-type devices attached to gnaw away at the old concrete as early as Monday, Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Little said.

Hamilton Construction of Springfield has spent the past four months building a work bridge and containment structure — to catch falling pieces of concrete during demolition — across the river, underneath the old bridge. Hamilton is putting the finishing touches on it this week, Little said Wednesday during a tour of the work site.

The work bridge is getting its final layer of plywood and will be topped with sand. “Nice and soft to land on,” Upton said of the sand that will break the fall of crumbling concrete, and protect the work bridge.

Multistep process

Demolition of the old bridge — taken out of use in 2004 because of structural deficiencies — should be complete by mid-January, and the concrete will be hauled out and recycled, Upton said.

“Virtually everything that’s in the old bridge will get reused somehow,” he said.

As soon as the old bridge is down, construction of the southbound portion of the new replacement bridge will begin, with completion scheduled for spring 2011. At that point, all traffic in both directions will be diverted from the temporary bridge to the new southbound structure, Little said.

The new bridge will actually be two bridges — a southbound one and a northbound one, each as wide as the entire old bridge at 64 feet.

Each of the two new bridges is designed to eventually accommodate three lanes of traffic. The new southbound bridge can easily temporarily accommodate two lanes in each direction, ODOT says.

The process will then be repeated to build the northbound structure of the replacement bridge, with the containment structure being taken out and rebuilt under the temporary bridge before it is dismantled, Little said.

The replacement bridge, which will have twin arches anchored on either shore that rise up to the bottom of the span to meet in midriver, is being built as part of the $1.6 billion Oregon Transportation Investment Act, funded by bonds approved by the 2003 Legislature.

Creative minds at work

The money is being used to replace and repair bridges on critical transportation routes throughout the state. The $187 million project ($147 million for construction and $40 million for design) has been billed as “more than a bridge,” a collaboration of local and state officials and volunteer residents that want something more than just a span of concrete, Upton said.

“It’s really about local engagement and interest we’re getting in this project,” Upton said.

A community advisory group has put in “hours and hours” of work. That group, along with the state Department of Transportation’s design-enhancement panel, recently selected three teams of artists, architects, landscape architects and other design professionals to work with ODOT on design enhancements.

Lando and Associates of Portland and Seattle artist Buster Simpson will design enhancements for above-deck and roadway features on the new bridge. These include landscaping, screening, sound walls and other elements such as potential sign bridges and median sculptures.

GreenWorks of Portland, partnering with artists Lee Imonen, Adam Kuby and Suzanne Lee, will design a south bank interpretive area, which includes the old Eugene Millrace, river channel restoration and the south bank bicycle and pedestrian path, underpass and viaduct.

Litus LLC, a Eugene land management consulting company, will collaborate with Eugene artist Betsy Wolfston, local educators and conversation experts to develop design elements on the north side of the river that reflect the bridges’ “Whilamut Passage” theme and the 200-acre Whilamut Natural Area on either side of the bridge area.

All three teams will develop conceptual plans this winter and unveil them during Eugene’s First Friday ArtWalk on Feb. 5, according to ODOT.

i-5 bridge replacement facts

On-ramp closure: The Franklin Boulevard on-ramp to southbound I-5 will be closed near the end of November for about two months. Motorists will be detoured to I-5 via Franklin and Glenwood boulevards. Franklin Boulevard between Glenwood Boulevard and just east of the I-5 on-ramp may be closed for a few weekends in February.

Boaters: Use the marked channel on the north side of the river to go under the bridge. Never use the south side.

More info: