Rendering of the new Willamette River Bridge

Monday, December 30, 2013

Signing off

From ODOT-

When I joined the Willamette River bridge project in 2008, the team was still planning the bridge design. Our citizen volunteers were strategizing the overall theme, Whilamut Passage, which would guide the vision for this special place by honoring its past, present and future visitors.  

We continued to engage the public through construction by offering site tours and seeking input on the design enhancements. We’ve held many community events that were well-attended, and I was always energized by the passion of the Eugene-Springfield community. I feel I can call this place my home away from home, and I will never forget the many wonderful people I have met. 

My vision for this important project was a much higher level of public engagement than is typical. From virtual open houses and ODOT’s first blog to a design enhancement steering committee, I’m extremely proud of the entire team’s willingness to work together and surpass anyone’s expectations. Our extensive public involvement has become a model that my colleagues at ODOT and other state agencies are now seeking to emulate. 

I am touched by the enthusiasm of our city partners in working with us. I was tickled when, during our groundbreaking ceremony, Mayor Piercy of Eugene told me she was excited to keep her golden shovel. It’s a moment she still talks about! 

While the blog may be done, we are still completing work on and around the bridge. Watch for more design enhancements, interpretive displays and the opening of the path viaduct in 2014.

On a recent cold day, steam rose toward the new arches of the Whilamut Passage Bridge.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A new perspective on public involvement

From ODOT-

As I write my final post for the Willamette River Bridge project blog, I realize that in my 22 years at ODOT I’ve never seen a community group this involved in a construction project.
I’ve enjoyed working with citizen representatives on the Community Advisory Group and Design Enhancement Steering Committee to create public places that honor the cultural history of area and mark an important transportation improvement for all users.

People who bike and walk on the paths will enjoy the beauty at a slow speed. They will see the culmination of design, construction and art work where the bridge’s arches touch down to embrace the beauty of the natural surroundings.

From their vehicles on top of the bridge, commuters will know they are in a special place as they pass over the river and come upon the design enhancements that embrace the Kalapuya heritage.

It has been an eye-opening experience to work so closely with the community. I learned a lot by listening to people who’ve spent many years enjoying the park land surrounding the bridge. And I think they learned a lot about the parameters we as a public agency need to work within.

When relationships are valued and folks are respected for the perspectives and talents that they bring to the table, it can lead to accomplishments that everyone can be very proud of. This cooperation brings lasting value to the community.

Frannie Brindle
ODOT Region 2 Area 5 Manager

Thank you to our valuable partner in community involvement

From ODOT-

I want to give a shout out to CAWOOD for being a wonderful local partner on the Willamette River Bridge project.

As 37-year veterans of communications in Eugene and beyond, CAWOOD’s team members definitely have their fingers on the pulse of the community. They always had sound advice on what residents would most want to know about and how best to reach them.

They were the here, there and everywhere eyes and ears of this project, attending weekly construction meetings to stay on top of the latest potential impacts to motorists and path users. Their close coordination with the construction team ensured that they had current and thorough information, plus a deep understanding of the stories behind the work.   

Their help allowed us to expand public engagement beyond simple news releases to include informative tours of the project site and kiosks for the park paths. 

It was CAWOOD’s expertise that led to the success of our opening celebration. The team came up with the idea for a self-guided tour and worked tirelessly on hundreds of logistical details, from the creative hay bale signs to the parking and shuttle service. 

And finally, CAWOOD has been essential in facilitating meetings of the Community Advisory Group and Design Enhancement Steering Committee to ensure all voices were heard during the design enhancement process.  

CAWOOD has earned the trust of the community, and it has been a joy to work with the entire team.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


From ODOT-


This is my final post, as we wrap up the Willamette River Bridge project blog this month. Our work on the project continues into next summer as we complete stream improvements, the path viaduct and design enhancements.

It has been the experience of my life to work on this project. The technical and professional challenges were extremely rewarding. I especially enjoyed the project tours with the children. Our experiences will truly help refine the model for developing and constructing future large projects.

I will miss working with such a talented project team of designers, office staff, inspectors, contractors and stakeholders. I feel I am saying goodbye to friends.

To the communities of Eugene and Springfield, thank you for your patience with our use of your open spaces and access paths and routes, and for your continued interest in the project. I’m glad I have gotten to know so many of you.

See you in the park!

Time capsules preserve project’s history

From ODOT-

Earlier this year, we collaborated with elementary school children to preserve artifacts of local history in time capsules to be sealed inside the new Whilamut Passage Bridge.
Teachers incorporated the project into curricula about architecture, science, technology and the environment. Project managers from Hamilton Construction volunteered for classroom visits to and hosted site tours for participating schools.
Students from local elementary schools filled the time capsules with model bridges, pictures, letters to the future and their favorite books. (Visit this previous blog post to read more about their experiences.)
Hamilton, OBEC Consulting Engineers, ODOT and Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners also contributed a variety of items to the time capsules. Their chosen keepsakes included newspaper clippings, project newsletters, Mylar project plans and photographs of the construction process.
Crews installed the time capsules inside the base of the northbound bridge’s arches on Dec. 11. The keepsakes will remain safe and dry until they are recovered at the end of the bridge’s life, probably 75 to 100 years from now.
Here, a time capsule from Buena Vista Elementary School is placed into a specially made cove of the Whilamut Passage Bridge's arch, where it will likely rest for 75 to 100 years.

 “We thought we might spark students’ interest in the construction and engineering industries by asking them to help us fill the time capsules,” said Hamilton Project Manager Con O’Connor. “It was also a fun way for the team to close out and commemorate our work on the project.”

A crew member crawled down into the cove to place the time capsules inside the bridge's arch before it was sealed.
Hamilton Construction's Con O'Connor, Jeff Firth and Karl Stelljes hold the stamp that will mark the concrete proteching the time capsule. It reads, "Time capsule enclosed 2013."

Monday, December 9, 2013

The making of a culture landmark

From ODOT-

By now, you’ve likely seen the “River” design enhancement that has graced the north end of the Whilamut Passage Bridge since August.

Watch our latest Behind the Orange Cones video to watch it be created. You’ll also hear from Lillian Pitt, the Native American artist who was inspired by her heritage as she designed the piece.

It’s been fascinating to watch craftspeople transform simple sheets of stainless steel into the beautiful sculpture that will pay tribute to the Kalapuya for decades to come.

A big thank you to Hamilton Construction

From ODOT-

As the project winds down, it’s time to express our deep gratitude to those who’ve been on the front line for the past four years – working in all kinds of weather.

Hamilton Construction, along with its many talented subcontractors, has successfully tackled a complicated bridge project that spanned a broad river, a well-loved park, a busy local boulevard and a railroad.

By the end of this year, Hamilton’s work on the site will be all but done. The project office, Hamilton’s temporary home for the past four years, will be gone from its site on Franklin Boulevard by the end of January. Team members will, however, stay involved with the project through spring to finish stream restoration and complete the south bank viaduct.

Not only did the Hamilton team continually stay ahead of schedule and under budget, it did so with utmost professionalism. Project team members used many innovative building techniques while diligently protecting the environment. They also were extremely helpful to the public involvement team by quickly responding to questions and graciously helping us with community events on the site.

With more than 70 years’ experience, Hamilton is a partner ODOT can count on to build a project as complex as the Whilmut Passage Bridge, and we look forward to more opportunities to partner with the company in the future.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Arches add to breathtaking scenery on the Willamette River

From ODOT-

Just before the close of the in-water work period, construction crews removed the final sections of the work bridge last week, exposing a stunning view.

With the materials from the work bridge completely gone, the shapely arches of the Whilamut Passage Bridge complement the natural beauty of the rippling river. The new bridge design offers an entirely different view of the river, unobstructed by piers, a departure from the profile of the previous Interstate 5 bridge.

Afternoon sunshine highlights the graceful arches in ths view of the north bank of the Willamette River.
Be sure to take a peek next time you’re in the area. Some of my favorite viewing spots are from the Knickerbocker Bridge and, further to the east, the South Bank Path. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bicycle and pedestrian paths will reopen this week

From ODOT-

We are excited to report that bicycle and pedestrian paths in the Whilamut Natural Area of Alton Baker Park, near the new Whilamut Passage Bridge, will be open in their final configuration by Dec. 6. This includes Pre’s Trail, the North Bank Path and North Walnut Road.

Later in December, crews will remove the construction yard and fence at the north end of the Knickerbocker Bridge and take out the temporary detour paths. That work should be completed this winter. 

Path users may experience some intermittent path delays or detours, while the construction team finishes installing design enhancements near the bridge. Please continue to use caution while traveling through the area. 

We want to thank all path users for their patience during path closures and detours over the past four years. These closures and delays were necessary for everyone’s safety during construction of the new Interstate 5 bridge. We appreciate your support and the efforts of project leaders to minimize the inconvenience.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Whilamut Passage Bridge inspires local artists

From ODOT-

The graceful arches of the Whilamut Passage Bridge have become an appealing subject for local painters, including Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners Assistant Project Manager Michael Kelley.

An engineer by trade, Michael believed painting was out of his comfort zone, but he thought art would be a fun way to commemorate his and his colleagues’ work on the Willamettte River Bridge project.

Inspired by watching the project take shape over the years, Michael and his wife contacted Vino & Vango – We Do Painting Parties! in Springfield. Vino & Vango offers public and private painting classes led by teachers who guide people through the painting process, allowing time to socialize and enjoy snacks and beverages.

When the Kelleys asked Vino & Vango Owner Pauline Hauder about adding the Whilamut Passage Bridge to the list of subjects, she and one of the instructors, Sarah, gladly accepted the suggestion.
Based on photographs and trips through the Whilamut Natural Area, Vino & Vango teacher Sarah created this model painting to use as a guide for students
Sarah created her rendition based on Pauline’s photographs from trips to the Whilamut Natural Area. Sarah and Pauline suggested that the class remove some of the paths to help direct the viewer’s eye to the focal point – the bridge. However, Michael wanted to paint that part of the scene accurately.

“The paths should stay,” said Michael, knowing the importance of the project’s intricacies. “Their positioning is very important because of a frog pond that lies between them.”

Patricipants of the class celebrate their painting sucesses.
Nevertheless, Michael himself added his own details to the painting, including a slightly arched bridge deck and the widely known Pre’s Trail.

His painting is a lasting memento of the project that means so much to him, his colleagues and the community.

Shared sense of pride as project wraps up

From ODOT-

The Willamette River Bridge project has been my primary focus for a number of years. While our project team may feel as though this is our bridge, we remind ourselves that we tackled this project for others. We built this bridge for the community.

Technically, there are different owners for different portions of the project, including the cities of Eugene and Springfield, Eugene Parks and Open Spaces, and Willamalane Parks and Recreation District.

Crews use a manlift to finish details on the underside of the bridge.

As the construction schedule gets shorter, ODOT’s project team continues to work very closely with the contractor to wrap up final details before we can turn the surrounding areas over to the owners for long-term maintenance. The new Whilamut Passage Bridge is open to traffic, and as with any construction project, there are many final details we still need to address before we consider the work complete.

 Recently filled with equipment and materials, the north yard will eventually be home to 7,000 camas flower bulbs.

Some of the finishing details are less visible to the public, but one thing you’ll probably notice is less equipment and material in the Whilamut Natural Area. We regularly evaluate the remaining work and decide whether the equipment and resources we have on-site are still needed. By the end of the year, the north yard, located in the Whilamut Natural Area, will be cleared out and topsoil will be laid down for camas flowers and native grasses.

And when the dust settles and flowers start to bloom, we’ll revisit the project site with a shared sense of pride knowing our part in this legacy for generations to come.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Restoring riparian habitats

Restoring riparian habitats

Last month I wrote about plans for the natural viewing area on the south bank of the Willamette River. This project also includes restoration of a nearby creek that has been tunneled underground for years.

The south bank of the Willamette River Bridge project area is home to a network of waterways, including Augusta Creek. This small tributary to the Willamette River is habitat for black-spotted cutthroat trout, which swim upstream to spawn.

To minimize the effect of construction on these waterways, we worked with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Hamilton Construction Co. to redirect Augusta Creek through a temporary fish ladder. This rerouting allowed us to build the multi-use path viaduct and restore the existing stream channel.

The restoration will not only improve access for the trout, but also will enhance habitat for other wildlife and help filter runoff before the water enters the river.

Here’s a view of Augusta Creek along the Franklin Boulevard off-ramp this past summer. Crews installed fixed logs to improve fish habitat.

Once the multi-use path viaduct that crosses Augusta Creek opens to pedestrian and bicycle traffic next spring, crews will complete the stream restoration. The new and improved waterway will be completed next summer.

Looking south from the Knickerbocker Bridge, you see the multi-use path viaduct spanning Augusta Creek.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Project manager wins prestigious award

From ODOT-

Congratulations to Karl Wieseke for winning ODOT’s Excellence in Project Delivery Award in Project Management Leadership. 
Karl has exercised his many talents on the Willamette River Bridge project, to widespread delight and gratitude. Here are just a few reasons he deserved this award.
Karl is a hands-on manager. His presence at the opening celebration is a classic example of his approach. He began his Saturday early by placing signs with the public involvement team, followed it up by leading a bike ride on the bridge, and then entertained the many citizens waiting in line to tour the deck by answering their questions about the project knowledgeably. 
With so many invested stakeholders, Karl had many opportunities to collaborate with the communities of Eugene and Springfield, mitigating concerns by responding to issues with innovative solutions. 
Karl also involved the local community in various aspects of the project. He hosted tours for several agencies, interest groups, students and engineers. He also worked very closely with tribal representatives. 
The success of this project — and the fact that it is being delivered on time and under budget — would not have been possible without his dedication.
Here are some quotes from his colleagues that show why Karl deserves this award:

“In addition to being resourceful, Karl is exceptional at the human side of project management. As the face of the project, he is great at establishing an instant connection with anyone.”

– Larry Fox, President, OBEC Consulting Engineers.

“Thanks to Karl, there is a stronger level of trust than I’ve seen or experienced on any other project. Karl eats, sleeps and breathes Whilamut Passage Bridge. You can trust him to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons – always thinking of what’s best for the project.”

– Jeff Firth, project manager at Hamilton Construction Co.
Karl Wieseke was all smiles during the Aug. 3 opening celebration.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

As blog winds down, what final topics should we cover?

From ODOT-

The Willamette River Bridge project blog began in 2010, nearly one year after construction started. To date, it’s ODOT’s only blog. It was launched as a pilot program, to keep the communities of Eugene and Springfield updated on the project and impacts, while providing a forum for issues and topics of interest.

By the end of this year, most bridge construction will be complete. Work will continue on the path viaduct, design enhancements and environmental restoration, but at a slower pace than before. Consequently, we plan to wrap up this blog by Dec. 31.

Between now and then, we want to hear from you. Are there any topics yet to be covered that you’d like to read about? Would you like more detail or an update on something we’ve previously covered? Please let us know in the comment box below.

Thank you for reading the Willamette River project blog! We genuinely appreciate your input.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Inside a median barrier

From ODOT-

Here’s a rare look inside one of the median barriers that you drive by all the time.

Above you can see a row of reinforcing steel, or rebar, that will support the shape of the median barrier after crews fill the forms with concrete and provide strength for many years to come.

Here the crews are placing the concrete to complete this cast-in-place barrier at the Whilamut Passage Bridge.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Views from the viaduct

From ODOT-

As crews continue to work on the path viaduct, we’ve been able to capture some great photos that show how close to the river runners, walkers and bicyclists will be once this new path opens next spring.

In this photo, crews are pouring concrete between the path beams to seal them together; this segment of the path passes by the base of the highway bridge arches.

Here, they perform the same task along the eastern south bank of the river.
Where the path runs along the south bank on the east side of the Whilamut Passage Bridge, the viaduct deck is being prepared for the hand railing and lighting.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

South bank multi-use path extends under Whilamut Passage Bridge

From ODOT-
 In August, crews placed all of the remaining beams, which were salvaged and reused from the temporary detour bridge. The joints where the beams meet one another have been grouted, and the path is ready to be paved.

The multi-use path viaduct will run underneath the new Whilamut Passage Bridge and cross over the soon-to-be restored streambed. It will connect to the existing paved path on the south bank of the Willamette River just east of the Knickerbocker Bridge.

Here’s a view from the new multi-use path looking west toward the existing bicycle and pedestrian path.

 Here is near where the new multi-use path crosses over the streambed, which will be restored by next summer.

The entire path viaduct will be paved at the end of November or early next spring, depending on the weather. Crews will install permanent railing late this fall.

Be sure to watch for more changes in the area as crews continue work on the path, stream and nearby landscaping. Path users should be aware of construction traffic and equipment.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Natural viewing area planned for south bank of Willamette River

From  ODOT

The south bank of the Willamette River, just east of the Knickerbocker Bridge, is getting a facelift!

ODOT’s project team, including Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture & Planning, worked closely with the Design Enhancement Steering Committee on the design. Native landscaping features will mingle with seating constructed of natural materials that offers a great view of the recently completed Whilamut Passage Bridge.

Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture & Planning created the above renderings of the landscaping that will be located between the multi-use path and the bank of the river.

Work on the south bank is scheduled to be complete next summer.