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Having secured grant funding, the City of Prineville will begin replacement of the Elm Street bridge

JASON CHANEY - The bridge where Northeast Elm Street crosses Ochoco Creek is the last remaining wooden-pile bridge in Prineville and the supports on the 56-year-old structure are rotting.

The Elm Street bridge crossing Ochoco Creek in northeast Prineville has drawn attention for all of the wrong reasons of late.

The structure, built in 1962, is the lone wooden pile-driven bridge inside the city limits and frequently collects unsightly debris when creek waters rise. The sidewalks, closed for safety purposes a decade ago, are closed off with cyclone fencing so lacking in aesthetic appeal that an arts group tried to jazz them up this past summer with colorful ribbon work.

Just two weeks ago, the Prineville Public Works Department lowered the load limit from 17 tons to 10 tons, ruling out passage for most commercial trucks and even school buses. It's sufficiency rating, according to the latest inspection by Oregon Department of Transportation, is 38.8 out of a possible score of 100.

After trying for nearly a decade to secure funding to replace the aging bridge, the City of Prineville is finally able to fund such a project, and following city council approval of an agreement with ODOT Tuesday, work can now begin on the project.

"We are going to be awarded $2.1 million (of federal grant money)," said City Street Supervisor Scott Smith. "We foresee within the next month soliciting proposals from engineering firms to design and engineer the bridge. Our goal is to be constructing no later than spring or early summer 2019."

Although the funding comes courtesy of a federal grant, Smith said that the city and ODOT were able to exchange the dollars from federal to state.

"The City of Prineville will administer this project, oversee it and pay the dollars out," he said.

Design and engineer work on the new bridge is expected to take eight to 10 months, and the intent is to make it structurally and aesthetically similar to the Main Street bridge that crosses Ochoco Creek. Features will include stamped concrete as well as more decorate lampposts. In addition, the city hopes to run a water line under the bridge that currently runs under the creek.

Because the city is completely replacing the bridge, rather than repairing or reinforcing it, the project will include some stream improvements, and environmental concerns associated with the recent reintroduction of steelhead will need to be addressed.

Also, the city will have to close Elm Street for about four to six months as the old structure is removed and the new bridge is installed. Detours for vehicle traffic will be developed as will alternative paths for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The new bridge, once completed, is expected to last at least 20 years in accordance with ODOT requirements, however Smith said it could last much longer than that.

"It's common with correct maintenance and without any natural catastrophic events (to last) 30 to 40 years," he said.

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