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Columbia River bridge at Umatilla begins year-long repair project

Project will funnel traffic both directions onto one span between Oregon and Washington
By Jade McDowell

Staff Writer

Published on June 13, 2017 11:19AM

The year-long construction project on the Oregon-bound bridge spanning the Columbia River has began in Umatilla.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

The year-long construction project on the Oregon-bound bridge spanning the Columbia River has began in Umatilla.

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South bound traffic is reduced to one lane at the Umatilla bridge over the Columbia River on Monday in Umatilla.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

South bound traffic is reduced to one lane at the Umatilla bridge over the Columbia River on Monday in Umatilla.

Buy this photo

Interstate 82’s Oregon-bound bridge into Umatilla will be closed for more than a year for construction.

Travel over the Columbia River will be reduced to the newer Washington-bound bridge, which will have one lane dedicated to eastbound traffic and one lane for westbound traffic starting on or shortly after July 4. Work on creating the detour for eastbound travelers started Monday, reducing the Oregon-bound bridge to one lane of travel for the remainder of the month before full closure.

The Washington State Department of Transportation plans to replace the patch-filled deck of the steel truss bridge, built in 1955, and do small upgrades to lighting and drainage. The bridge is expected to re-open sometime in the fall of 2018.

“We do frequent closures throughout the year to fix potholes,” WSDOT spokeswoman Summer Derrey said. “This will alleviate that.”

Both bridges together handle more than 8,000 vehicles daily. Derrey said the department does expect some traffic impacts but not very lengthy delays.

“Just plan on an extra few minutes if you’re traveling over,” she said.

Speed over the remaining bridge will be reduced to 55 miles per hour to encourage vehicles to be cautious while passing traffic coming across the bridge from the opposite direction.

Washington and Oregon split the cost of maintenance to bridges that run between the two states. The deck replacement project is expected to cost about $10 million and will be managed by WSDOT.

After the deck is fixed, the next order of business will be painting the steel trusses. According to the Tri-City Herald, the paint job will cost as much as $40 million and is expected to be funded in the 2021-23 biennium.

The eastbound bridge opened in 1955 and carried traffic in both directions, replacing a ferry previously used to transport vehicles across. In 1988 a second bridge — the one that will be used to carry all traffic until fall 2018 — was built to handle increased traffic flow across the river.

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Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.



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