When driving on a bridge, do you ever think about its condition? There’s always something daunting about crossing a bridge — the water underneath can induce feelings of anxiety. There’s also the fact that you’re driving over an error-prone, artificial structure. The thought that it might collapse at any moment is reason enough to feel unsafe and uneasy.
For some people, the fear can be paralyzing, a condition known as gephyrophobia. This condition presents an almost irrational or excessive fear of particular situations or objects, one of which is crossing a bridge. People with gephyrophobia will experience symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks, and more. Unfortunately for them, many states in America have bridges in poor or worsening conditions. Some have such significant structural deficiencies that often necessitate closure for repair work.
Before we explore Oregon and the counties with some of the worst bridges, let’s understand the various bridge ratings:
American Bridge Ratings
The bridge ratings in America use a system known as the National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) applies the ratings to ensure bridge reliability and safety.
The bridge ratings range from 0 to 9, depending on the condition; the higher the rating, the better the situation. These three fundamental elements will determine the rating of the bridge:
- The deck or surface on which cars drive
- The structure that supports the deck
- The culverts or substructures that hold up the main structure
The inspection will also include underwater components, which are prone to corrosion that could impact the ability of the bridge to handle the weight of the vehicles passing on it.
A good rating for a bridge means 7 points and above. In this case, the bridge meets the necessary standards and does not require any immediate attention. You could also refer to such bridges as non-deficient and can handle the traffic and load as per the original design specifications.
A five or six bridge rating may require some attention due to minor structural problems. This could include monitoring for further damage or repairs. A four and below rating shows the bridge is structurally deficient and requires replacement or repairs. Please note such maintenance may result in weight restrictions or bridge closure until the work is complete.
So does a poor rating mean that the bridge is unusable or unsafe? The answer is no. It means that one of the components, the deck, structure, or culvert, has significant issues. However, a two or one rating is critical and indicates imminent failure of the bridge. Thus, the authorities must take urgent/immediate action to avoid contributing to case studies of the worst bridge collapses in history.
Bridges that need to meet modern standards fall under functionally obsolete. For example, they may have small shoulders, insufficient lane width, and low vertical clearance. Please note that functionally obsolete bridges do not mean the structure is not sound. The only challenge is that it needs to meet specific criteria concerning clearance, geometry, or road alignment.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) began bridge inspections due to the collapse of West Virginia’s Silver Bridge in 1967. Tragically, 46 people lost their lives due to the unfortunate incident.
Over the years, the FHWA mandate has expanded to state and municipal bridges, including those in the federal highway system. Furthermore, the state department also has rules for underwater inspections and regulations for bridge inspectors.
FHWA will conduct Bridge inspections every two years. But for those bridges with lower ratings, it could happen more regularly due to the need for constant monitoring. State entities and municipalities that maintain bridges must submit inspection reports to the transportation state departments, which then forward them to the Federal Highway Administration.
The State of Oregon’s Bridges
According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARIBA), Oregon has 8,255 bridges. Out of this, 396 are structurally deficient. As bad as it looks, the numbers are less dire than they were in 2018. Back then, the number of bridges in poor condition was 422.
3.1% of the structurally deficient bridges can attribute the poor rating to the deck area damages. 783 Oregon bridges have a load posting. The postings may result in possible restrictions on the weight and size of the vehicles that can use a structure. 1,962 bridges will need repairs worth $3.7 billion. Here’s more information on these bridges:
- Bridges that need replacing: 289
- Bridges needing rehabilitation or widening: 1,111
- Rehabilitation work: 216
- Deck replacement or rehabilitation: 4
- Other structural works: 342
Most Structurally Deficient Bridges in Oregon on a County Basis
Oregon has experienced a significant decline in bridge ratings for ten years running. The Pittsburg four-lane bridge collapse in January 2022 was a further testament to the worsening situation. Fortunately, the accident did not result in any fatalities or serious injuries.
Most Oregon bridges fall under the distressed level, forcing restrictions on how much weight they can carry. Let’s explore some of the worst bridges in Oregon, as per the ARTBA, shall we?
Multnomah is located on the Southside of the Columbia River. You will notice many bridges in Oregon County stretch through the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Notable bridges include the historic Hawthorne Bridge, which sees a lot of motor, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. The Steel Bridge, Morrison Bridge, St. Johns Bridge, and Burnside Bridges also experience a lot of traffic.
As per the ARTBA report, Multnomah is leading the park to the absolute worst bridges in Oregon. Of the 473 bridges, 22 have structural deficiencies needing repairs or parts replacement. These include:
- Willamette River on Morrison Street
- UPRR yard over B-12
- Broadway Street Conn, NW, Broadway run
- Columbia Way, Columbia Boulevard over B-79 XN
- UPRR on Highway 081
- BNSF on Highway 123
- UP/SPRR on N Burgard Street
- UPRR, NE 33rd Avenue
- Willamette River, Highway 1W
Additionally, bridges like the Burnside Bridge require urgent work. The top priority is to make sure it’s earthquake ready. The work is still in the planning stages, with projections for the construction work set for 2025.
Multnomah also has more than its fair share of what the industry refers to as functionally obsolete bridges. The design and construction of the bridges were before the 1970s. That means they do not have the capacity for large traffic volumes or the more significant weight of some larger vehicles that are common on the roads nowadays.
Multnomah County, which maintains 27 Bridges, has the following bridge repair plans:
- The Morrison Bridge is undergoing repainting work, and the completion date will run until the summer of 2023. This is critical repair work because of the threat of corrosion to the steel components.
- Multnomah County is also planning for the Broadway Bridge deck replacement of the lift spans. The 2023 repairs will also focus on the brakes to get better control of the lift span speed.
- The Hawthorne Bridge will get some attention in 2024 with repair and paving work. The deck concrete has significant deterioration requiring a new deck surface. Also on the list of work is the replacement of deck joints for the east and west sides of the Hawthorne Bridge.
2. Lane County
Lane County sits in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The Pacific Ocean borders it to the left. Other neighboring counties are Benton to the North, Linn County to the east and Douglas County to the south. Bridges are a critical part of the transportation infrastructure. And the historical aspects of most of them form a part of the lane county heritage.
Lane County has 1,004 bridges. Here are the ones with structural deficiencies:
- Centennial Boulevard Highway
- Delta Highway, Good Pasture Road over FAU 1335
- Willow Creek, Highway 69
- Amazon Canal on Royal Avenue
- Row River on Shoreview Drive
- Mosby Creek on Layng Road
- Wildcat Creek on Austa Road
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is planning renovations for these three bridges:
- The Big Creek Bridge is located between Yachats and Florence on US 101. There’ll be replacement or repair of damaged concrete and arch bracings.
- The historic Willamette River Bridge is also set for some repair work. The ODOT plans to strengthen sections of the bridge and paint some parts. Furthermore, they have plans to construct a work containment structure for capturing any debris from construction activities.
- The Indian Creek Bridge on OR 36 is in poor condition and needs urgent repair. These include strengthening the structure, replacing or upgrading the drills, and changing sections of the deck or concrete parts where necessary.
Clackamas is South of Multnomah County and one of the most scenic places in Oregon. Bridges are critical transportation links, with notable ones being Oregon City Bridge, Abernethy Bridge, and Lake Oswego Railroad Bridge.
Clackamas has a total of 363 bridges. 82 require corrective action or repairs. 16 of them are structurally deficient, including:-
- Partial Viaduct, Highway 81
- Deep Creek, Highway 17
- Hillside Bridge on Highway 81
- Abernathy Creek on Holly Lane
- Molalla overflow on Shady Dell Road
- Salmon River on Island Road
- Springbrook Creek on summit drive
- Bull Run River on Bull Run Road
- Bear Creek on Canby Marquam
- Milk Creek on Ringo Road
The Abernathy Bridge links Oregon and West Linn over the Willamette River. Construction is in progress to make it earthquake ready. That’ll require updating the deck to handle Cascadia-level earthquake shaking. Furthermore, the engineers will also be replacing and strengthening the bridge supports.
4. Yamhill County
Yamhill County is in the northwestern part of Oregon. It has 133 bridges under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Department of Transportation. Inspection occurs annually to determine the replacement or repair needs.
Of particular concern is the 1951 South Yamhill River Bridge in McMinnville, OR 18. According to the ODOT, the bridge has many functional components in poor condition due to its expiring lifespan.
Construction of a new replacement bridge began in 1921, with a completion date set for 2025. The footbridge must be wider at 48 feet from the former 35 feet to bring the south Yamhill Bridge up to modern standards.
Other structurally deficient bridges, totaling 10 in number, include:-
- Deer Creek on Gopher Valley Road
- Baker Creek on Grenfell CO Pk Road
- Ash Swale on Patty Lane
- Salt Creek on Highway 153
- Willamina Creek on Blackwell park road
- Yamhill River on Bridge Street
- Deer Creek on Deer CR
- Small Stream on Grand Island Loop
- North Yamhill River on Fairdale Road
5. Linn County
Linn County is in central Oregon and boasts plenty of rivers and streams. Some notable bridges include the Calapooia River Bridge, the Santiam River Bridge Covered Bridge, and Brownsville Pioneer Bridge.
There are 566 Bridges in Linn County, with 17.49% or 99% achieving poor ratings from the US Department of Transportation. Ninety-nine of them are structurally deficient, including the following:
- Lebanon Ditch, Highway 10
- Cox Creek, Salem Avenue
- Oflow on Old Bridge Road
- Oak Cr Oflow on Lochner Road
- Overflow on Boston will
- Burkhart Creek on Miller Drive
- Beaver CR on Bellinger Scale
- Muddy Creek on Powers Drive
- Butte Creek on Sand Ridge
- SmallMan Creek on Miller Road
6. Washington County
Washington sits in the northwestern part of Oregon next to the Columbia River and the Washington State. The county has 322 bridges, including notable ones like the Saint Johns Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Ross Island Bridge, Sellwood Bridge, and Tualatin River Bridge. All these provide critical transport linkages with the different areas, thereby contributing to the infrastructure and economy.
Unfortunately, Washington has its share of structurally deficient bridges. These include:-
- Witcher Creek on Pongratz Road
- Tualatin River on South Road
- East Fork Dairy Creek on Fern Flat Road
- West Fork Dairy Creek on Highway 102
- Allen Boulevard on Highway 144
- Fanno Creek on North Dakota Street
7. Douglas County
Douglas County is in the southwestern part of Oregon. Notable bridges include the Stewart Parkway Bridge, Galesville Dam Bridge, North Umpqua Bridge, and South Myrtle Creek Bridge.
87 out of the 696 bridges need corrective work. 30 are structurally deficient, including:-
- Calapooya Creek and UPRR on highway 388
- Dean Creek on Johanneson Creek Road
- Looking Glass Bridge on County Road 47
- South Myrtle Creek on county road 18
- Cow Creek at County Road 12 in Glendale
- Cow Creek on County Road 20a
- Little River on County Road 82
- Archambeau Road on County Road 5
- Oldham Creek on Elkhead Road
- Bear Creek on Hubbard Creek Road
8. Tillamook County
Tillamook County lies in the northwestern part of Oregon. Bridges are a critical part of the transport network. Notable ones include the Wilson River Bridge, Trask River Bridge, Kilchis River Bridge, and Wilson River Bridge.
Tillamook County has 11 structurally deficient Bridges, including:
- Three Rivers at Beat Route Road
- Sand Creek at Sand Lake Road
- Dougherty Slough at Blum Lane
- Miami River at new Miami River Road
- Salmonberry River at Foss Road
- Hall Slough at Goodspeed
Understand The Worst Bridges In Oregon
Oregon ranks at number 37 in states with structurally deficient bridges. That means that one or more elements are in worsening or poor condition. The authorities must take the necessary action to repair or replace the parts within the shortest time possible. They’ll also undertake constant inspections to ensure the safety of the bridges despite the ratings. In case of significant concerns, the state typically closes such bridges until they correct the situation.
Finally, keep a close eye on the Oregon Department of Transport website for ongoing updates on bridge repair works. It can save you tons of inconvenience knowing ahead of time if you can’t access the bridges when you need to get somewhere.
Summary Of 8 Counties In Oregon With The Absolute Worst Bridges
|Some of the Worst Bridges
|– UPRR on Highway 081
– BNSF on Highway 123
– UP/SPRR on N Burgard Street
|– Mosby Creek on Layng Road
– Wildcat Creek on Austa Road
|– Partial Viaduct, Highway 81
– Deep Creek, Highway 17
|– Yamhill River on Bridge Street
– Deer Creek on Deer CR
|– Cox Creek, Salem Avenue
– Oflow on Old Bridge Road
|– Tualatin River on South Road
– West Fork Dairy Creek on Highway 102
|– Little River on County Road 82
– Oldham Creek on Elkhead Rd
|– Three Rivers at Beat Route Rd
– Salmonberry River at Foss Rd
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Ifistand
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