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  • 23 Oct 2014

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Trolley bridge gone, but not forgotten

Local span's failure could inspire some creative solutions -


Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette says she was among the local leaders who were on the verge of tears seeing Union Pacific’s century-old trolley bridge dismantled in March, lamenting its loss of potential to allow a direct connection to Oregon City for people walking and biking Gladstone’s Trolley Trail from Milwaukie.

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF KOIN TV - After showing signs of failure, crews dragged the old trolley bridge truss out of the Clackamas River and broke it up into pieces on land.At least there are other options, but they’re all less attractive than the bridge would have been, Collette said. You don’t have to watch out for cars on the Trolley Trail, but the current Clackamas River pedestrian bridge sends most trail users out of their way eastward into streets feeding toward Interstate 205. To the west, Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard’s own century-old bridge forces pedestrians and bicyclists onto narrow sidewalks next to highway-speed traffic.

“Making that connection is really important, because the McLoughlin/99E bridge doesn’t look like it would be fun to bike across,” Collette said. “The one farther to the east looks like it would be a good bridge, but especially if you’re walking, you’re going to want to walk directly down Portland Avenue and across.”

Not all hope is lost for another bridge between the communities, however. Thankfully, $200,000 from Metro could be a general transportation grant to find ways to connect the Trolley Trail to Oregon City, so the funding for planning isn’t necessarily lost with the bridge.

On another hopeful note, the Oregon Department of Transportation recently replaced bridges throughout the state using funds from the Oregon Transportation Improvement Program, so there might be something salvageable.

“ODOT and Portland’s Bureau of Transportation have old bridges that they could potentially give us from the bridges that they’ve been replacing, which weren’t any longer safe for cars, though with some work, they’d probably be perfect for bikers and walkers,” Collette said.

Some beams available

If there are some bridges throughout the region just sitting in warehouses for the taking, Gladstone and Oregon City officials would have a hard time turning down the offer. Although Metro was ready to advance Gladstone the $200,000 before the bridge’s collapse, now it’s not clear how quickly anything is going to move, Collette said.

“It’s up to the regional elected officials, the Metro Council, what to do with the planning grant,” said Metro Trails Planning Director Robert Spurlock. “One possibility for what to do with the money would be to look into a bike/ped crossing at the same location.”

The Oregon Legislature’s $2.46 billion Transportation Investment Act of 2003 provided $1.3 billion to repair or replace hundreds of aging state-owned bridges in Oregon. Lots of bridges were built statewide from the 1930s to the ’60s, and the vast majority of the funds went to reinforcing bridges rather than replacing them. While some may hope that there are still some bridges that could become available, the program is essentially over, and the last two to three projects will likely remove whole bridges rather than dismantling them.

“We replaced 149 and repaired 122, and they were replaced throughout the state, and we salvaged over 100 beams from the Willamette River bridge down in Eugene,” said ODOT spokeswoman Jyll Smith.

The remaining 24 114-foot concrete beams with steel rebar in the middle are cut at a 25-degree angle, so that would make them of “questionable” usefulness for a Trolley Bridge replacement. Suzanne Roberts of Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners, which contracts with ODOT, says that it would cost Gladstone or Metro about $2,500 for each used beam as opposed to new for $17,000. There’s also the cost of moving and cleaning them that would need to be considered.

Who should pay for the bridge?

Meanwhile, some murmurs continue against Lake Oswego’s nearby project to pump Clackamas River water to Tigard. But construction officials say that Lake Oswego can’t be held responsible, even by rumor, for a bridge that was constructed before seismic standards.

Gladstone resident Tammy Stempel, who is not an engineer, but is surrounded by engineers working at Adept Engineering, said it’s impossible that the pipeline project upstream didn’t have some effect on the bridge. Stempel, who also is chairwoman of the Gladstone Planning Commission has been alarmed by the construction at the River Intake Pump Station on Clackamas Boulevard, and she thinks Gladstone should be able to get funding to repair the embankment from damage caused by Lake Oswego’s cofferdam.

“My concern is that the dam is still causing erosion, and the longer it’s there, the longer the damage to the bank will continue,” she said.

Lake Oswego spokeswoman Jane Heisler noted “there’s an awful lot of hearsay out there” and any allegations that the pipeline project had something to do with the trolley-bridge collapse are “completely unsubstantiated.”

“Other than being very close to one another, it would be hard to say, given the age of the structure,” Heisler said.

As for the erosion concerns between the cofferdam and the bank, Lake Oswego’s project has super sacks lined up along the bank, which are basically bags of aggregate rocks that they’ll have to remove when the project is complete. “Soldier piles” help stabilize the bank so it will remain in place.

“We have 14 ground anchors that are drilled down into the bedrock, so we don’t think it’s going anywhere,” Heisler said.

Crews contracted through Lake Oswego have been focused lately on pouring concrete for the interior walls of a 56-foot slab.

Last week, excavation started for an access bridge to the new structure, which will continue this week. In late May, a large concrete pour will occur for the bridge’s decking.

Neighbors can expect some noise Monday through Friday, with some Saturdays, and increased truck traffic during the excavation and concrete pour.

Representatives from Frank Coluccio Construction will provide members of the public the opportunity to learn about the pipeline work approach in Gladstone and their anticipated schedule from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 29, at the Gladstone Senior Center, 1050 Portland Ave.

Starting this week, crews will begin preparing the drilling site in Meldrum Bar Park for construction. This includes installing an office trailer, security fencing and mobilizing drilling equipment. Signage also will be installed through the park and on the fencing of the staging area.

Drilling work is expected to begin June 5, including installation of a pipe casing prior to drilling the tunnel under the river. The installation of the casing is expected to be very noisy for about two weeks during work hours, which are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.