Ill-Fated U.S. 20 Bridge in Oregon Goes Down

Tom Warne Report, 14 September 2012
The Oregonian – September 10, 2012

Contractors demolished the Crystal Creek Bridge in Oregon this week, bringing down 1,100 tons of concrete in an instant, as contractors worked to take down the tallest bridge of the U.S. 20 realignment project. The state spent $17.7 million building the failed bridges, and an additional $877,000 to destroy them. The demolished project would have carried drivers 70 feet over the rugged coast, but was unsuccessful because of the trials of building bridges in regions prone to landslide.

“It may look like a step back to some, but it’s a huge step forward,” said Rick Little, Oregon Department of Transportation spokesperson. “After no movement for two years, this is totally moving forward.”

The total cost of the project is now budgeted at $304 million, around double the original budget of $150 million. The final blow to the 5.5-mile alignment project between Eddyville and Pioneer Mountain was discovered in February 2010 when engineers found the ancient landslides thought to have stopped, were still moving, and taking the bridge bents with them. After two years of research and negotiation, ODOT announced the state would take over the design and building of the project from Yaquina River Contractors.

Work resumed this past June, including demolishing the four bridges, only one of which was complete, and replacing them with culverts, fill and drainage systems. The new highway to replace the existing 10 miles of curving, narrow roadway will be ready for traffic in 2015, six years later than the initial completion date of 2009.

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