At long last, it looks like the Molalla River Bridge finally will get its much-anticipated repairs

DANIEL PEARSON - The last time Canby saw work being done on the Molalla River Bridge was in May, as ODOT work crews prepped the bridge for the work that was eventually to follow. Well, that work is about to happen later in July.
The good news for drivers passing through Canby on Highway 99E is that Don Hamilton, a public information officer for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), said construction on the Molalla River (Highway 99E) Bridge on the south side of Canby will finally begin in earnest in late July.

The bad news is that ODOT's construction on the Molalla River Bridge, which will again replace the roadway's surface, will cause nightly lane closures from Monday, July 24 through Saturday, July 29.

"The closures will start at 7 p.m. Monday, July 24 and continue until 6 a.m. the next morning (each day of the project)," Hamilton said. "The schedule will repeat on the following four nights until 6 a.m. (on) Saturday, July 29.

Local access to businesses on Highway 99E will be maintained (open) at all times."

Hamilton said the northbound lane closures are necessary to allow crews to resurface the bridge, which sees an average of about 19,300 vehicles travel over it every single day, with heavier traffic during the work week.

"The bridge surface is deteriorating and finally failed last fall," Hamilton said. "Crews removed three inches of asphalt that were no longer adhering to the concrete bridge deck as a temporary solution to get through the wet season, and now that dry weather has returned, (ODOT is) preparing to finish the repairs."

ODOT crews also were spotted in Canby in May doing preparation work on the bridge. The project also will include applying a new waterproof membrane to protect the bridge structure, and then paving the deck with three inches of new asphalt, he said.

The original problem came as a result of the asphalt peeling off the deck of the Molalla River Bridge during a particularly nasty wind, rain and ice storm on December 4, 2015. That storm blew through town just days after ODOT had been in Canby to patch potholes on the deck of the bridge, as the Herald reported more than a year-and-a-half ago, the result of a failed waterproof membrane, which was installed underneath the bridge.

ODOT officials still are not sure — or at least have not provided a clear answer — why or how the waterproof membrane failed.

ODOT crews were back on the scene Dec. 9, 2015 to repair the initial repair job, again forcing the closure of the northbound lane of the Molalla River Bridge after heavy rains washed out the pothole patch that had barely dried from its installation the previous weekend.

Adding to the issue for ODOT officials was the fact that the agency had just completed repaving Highway 99E from SW Berg Parkway west, all the way to Second Street in Aurora, which included work on the Molalla River Bridge.

In January 2016, Kimberly Dinwiddie, also an ODOT public information officer, told the Herald that after below-freezing temperatures, like those that occurred with above-average frequency that winter, and rain finally subside and the roadways thaw, it results in the asphalt expanding.

So, areas of pavement already distressed, such as the pot holes and ruts that, at the time, had just been repaired, tend to get even worse.

"There may be days of inactivity between work days depending on the weather conditions," Hamilton said. "The schedule is subject to change based on unanticipated site conditions, and material and crew demands."

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