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Work to begin in early July; pedestrian bridge planned at additional location

JASON CHANEY - Work on replacing the Elm Street bridge will begin in early July and take several months.

The Elm Street bridge over Ochoco Creek has seen better days.

The only remaining wood-pile built bridge in town, built in 1946, its supports are rotting and the wooden sidewalk alongside the road is in such a state of disrepair, the City of Prineville closed it years ago to public foot traffic.

For more than a decade, the city's public works department has been trying to secure the funding to replace the bridge, as its load rating has declined to 8 tons.

"That is less than (the weight of) firetrucks, garbage trucks and school buses," said Scott Smith, the city's street supervisor.

But it wasn't until last year that the city was finally awarded federal funds to replace the aging bridge and replace it with a new and improved version. Work is expected to begin as early as July 5.

To expedite the replacement process and get to construction as soon as possible, the city spent much of 2018 completing a process that Smith said de-federalized the funds and made them state dollars. That cut a lot of the bureaucracy and red tape out of the bridge replacement process.

"About six months ago, we went through a process and selected an engineering firm to design the bridge," Smith said.

The new structure was designed to closely match the appearance and quality of the Main Street bridge over Ochoco Creek and the Highway 126 bridge over Crooked River. Smith noted that it will feature new sidewalks, similar lighting and colored pavement.

Once bridge design was completed, the project went out to bid and four contractors responded. Those bids were opened about a week and a half ago and not only were all four competitive, they were well under budget. This will allow the city to pursue another aspect of the project that has been under consideration.

"When we first started down this road, working with ODOT staff, there was concern that when the Elm Street bridge was under construction, we wouldn't have a good alternate route for pedestrians and cyclists," Smith said.

He went on to note that a state law calls for adequate temporary pedestrian and bicycle routes when a street is closed for construction. To remedy this concern, the city considered building a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Ochoco Creek near Court Street that would connect the dead-end road to the bike and pedestrian path along the creek. The location was chosen because of its proximity to the incoming community splash pad as well as plans to build a new playground in the Stryker Park area.

"With the bids being favorable, that has become a reality," Smith said.

The pedestrian and bicycle bridge will be 10 feet wide and will remain in place after completion of the Elm Street bridge replacement for continued use.

Completion of the two bridges will cause some traffic changes as well as some closures along the Ochoco Creek path. Elm Street will need to close for about five to six months as Marcum & Sons, the Redmond-based contractor completing the project, removes and replaces the bridge. This will include some in-water work that state law mandates take place between July 1 and Oct. 31.

Also during construction, 150 feet of the Ochoco Creek path in each direction will be closed and later rebuilt. During that closure, a temporary path will be built that diverts pedestrians and cyclists onto East 5 ½ Street east of Elm Street to Court Street where the temporary path will rejoin the existing one.

Once the pedestrian bridge is built, the city will close 150-foot portions of the Ochoco Creek path in each direction to rebuild them. Smith explained that the bridge will be higher than the existing path on the north side of the creek, so the path will be rebuilt to gradually meet the bridge elevation.

Additional plans during the bridge replacement process include the installation of a water line that will cross Ochoco Creek underneath the new Elm Street bridge. Also, new ADA-compliant accesses will be built for the Wildland Firefighters Memorial and the war memorial that grace Ochoco Creek Park near Elm Street.

The bridge replacement might also enable the city to potentially lower flood insurance premiums for certain residents.

"One of the more important pieces of this puzzle is we worked really hard with the designing engineers to raise the elevation of the bridge, and we spent some extra money having them model Ochoco Creek from Combs Flat Road to Harwood Avenue with the intent of being able to minimize some of the 100-year flood zone," Smith said. "It looks like we will be able to do that to a point, which will help reduce some insurance costs for some our residents in the northeast portion of town — which is huge."

If all goes according to plan, construction will be completed by the end of November.

"We hope this goes well," Smith said. "We are looking forward to it. It is a long time coming."

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