Rendering of the new Willamette River Bridge

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Traffic switch, part two!

From ODOT-
Late Sunday night, we will switch northbound Interstate 5 traffic to begin sharing the new southbound Willamette River Bridge. The traffic switch will end in late 2013, when the new northbound bridge is complete.

Northbound freeway drivers may experience brief delays as crews move concrete barriers and safety barrels to guide traffic onto the new bridge. To minimize traffic impacts, workers will do the lane shifts at night.

Switching southbound traffic to the new bridge at 12:33 a.m. on Aug. 30 went very well. Below is a video showing the moment that the first vehicles drove onto the new southbound Willamette River Bridge.

What’s interesting to me is the mix of vehicles. In the first minute, 18 non-construction contractor vehicles crossed the bridge. There were nine commercial vehicles, ranging from a UPS triple-trailer and a double-deck car carrier, to six semi-combos and a large garbage truck. Nine passenger cars and pickups also crossed the new bridge. The importance of the I-5 Willamette River Bridge to Oregon’s economy and keeping commercial traffic flowing freely is clearly illustrated here.

The video was filmed by the Willamette River Bridge construction engineering inspection team, who deserve special thanks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I-5 off-ramp to Franklin Boulevard to close for two years

From ODOT-
Starting the week of Oct. 3, we will close the I-5 northbound off-ramp to Franklin Boulevard at exit 192 for up to two years to allow construction of the new northbound I-5 Willamette River Bridge.

The entrance ramp from eastbound Franklin Boulevard to southbound I 5 will remain open. Local access will also remain open at the intersection of Riverview Street and westbound Franklin Boulevard.

The detour route shown in the map below is the same one used during previous short-term closures of the Franklin Boulevard exit ramp. Those of you traveling northbound on I-5 to Franklin Boulevard will detour using exit 191 to Glenwood Boulevard. After exiting, turn right on Glenwood Boulevard to Franklin Boulevard. The detour route will be well-marked.

We have begun notifying the public and key stakeholder organizations such as freight companies, impacted businesses, schools and emergency service responders. We are also working closely with Lane County and the cities of Springfield and Eugene to ensure that they are prepared for this closure.

In addition, we received feedback from businesses on Franklin Boulevard during the three month closure last year. Based on that feedback we developed a more robust signage plan for the two-year closure.

The two-year closure will allow us to rebuild the off-ramp and raise it more than 5 feet to align with the future northbound bridge. By closing the exit, conflicts between construction crews and motorists are eliminated, not just reduced. Construction zone safety is a top priority of ODOT for these reasons:

  •  During the past decade in Oregon, there has been an average of 475 work zone related crashes per year resulting in an average of 18 work zone serious injury crashes and 8 fatal crashes.
  • Nationally, the numbers are even more staggering with an average of 740 work zone fatalities in the past three years.
  • The majority of people injured or killed in work zone crashes are drivers, passengers or pedestrians.
  • We also know road construction is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. The risk of death is seven times higher for road workers than for an average worker.

In addition to following this blog, you can find mobility updates on Twitter: @OregonDOT or on and

We know that this is a significant and lengthy closure and truly appreciate your patience!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

No Climbing of the Arches

From ODOT-
The graceful appearance of the arches on the new southbound Willamette River Bridge is in stark contrast to the multiple columns still remaining from the detour bridge. The remaining columns will be removed during demolition of the detour bridge, scheduled to begin in October. Then, the advantage of the single touchdown point of the arches in the river will become more recognizable.

The arch design decreases the impact of multiple bridge columns on the river environment, but creates a new safety issue. The old bridge’s support columns were vertical, smooth and almost impossible for a person to scale. The gentle slope of the new arches now provides an inviting temptation for daredevils to climb over the river from either bank.

When passing by the new bridge on the nearby paths, you might notice what we have done to discourage climbing on the arches. Our contractor crews built tall walls between the arch and the adjacent spandrel column to block access. In addition, crews poured a lid on top of each wall to prevent debris from falling into the enclosure created by the walls.

The design of the walls included the use of concrete form liners and are an added enhancement which is intended to blend with the bridge but still provide needed function.
We hope you enjoy the new bridge and the improvements to the surrounding area while respecting these steps taken to ensure everyone’s safety.
Workers built a special anti-access wall to prevent daredevils from climbing the new Willamette River Bridge arches.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why are those big boards going up on the beautiful new bridge?

From ODOT-
We continue to receive positive feedback about the new southbound bridge, especially the three-tube railing that allows travelers to see the river.

However, bridge users will notice the return of “gawk boards” to the east side of the bridge railing that will temporarily block the view during upcoming construction work.

Our contractor is installing “gawk boards” before demolishing the temporary bridge and building the new northbound bridge. The “gawk boards” provide for the safety of those traveling across the bridge and were also used during construction of the southbound bridge.

All of us are familiar with driving on the freeway and being unexpectedly slowed by travelers gawking at something along the road. This unexpected slowing increases the potential for major crashes involving multiple vehicles. The “gawk boards” will block views of the construction activity on the new bridge and decrease the risk of traffic slowing down to look.

The boards will also help protect the workers below from loose objects falling on them from vehicles crossing the bridge.

For your safety and that of the workers below, the “gawk boards” will stay up until construction of the new northbound bridge is complete, and traffic is using both of the new bridges.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Enhancing the Canoe Canal

From ODOT-
Built in 1974 for recreational boating, the Canoe Canal is more than two miles long. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regularly stocks it with legal-sized rainbow trout, making it a favorite fishing spot for many local residents. Pedestrian path users enjoy the meandering waterway, as well as the abundance of wildlife that it supports.

Until now, the canal under Interstate 5 has been contained in a large concrete culvert with high sidewalls that blocked the view of the water below. As part of the Willamette River Bridge project, our contractors are lowering both sides of Canoe Canal to increase visibility.

They removed the first four feet of the walls and installed new anchors to hold the remaining wall. When completed, the area around the canal will be landscaped to include special design enhancements, beautifying the surroundings for people who walk, run or ride nearby.

The Canoe Canal waterway connects to the Willamette River east of I-5 through Alton Baker Park, returning to the river downstream near the Ferry Street Bridge. 

The Canoe Canal before we removed the walls.

You can see how much of the walls have been removed so far.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Improving park paths while building a new bridge

From ODOT-
Before construction even began on the new Willamette River Bridge, ODOT, Eugene Parks and Open Space, Willamalane Park and Recreation District and the Citizens Planning Committee jointly developed plans to improve the pedestrian paths in and around the construction site. These improvements are part of an agreement among the agencies that allows the park to be used for staging and construction activity.

If you travel the paths in the Whilamut Natural Area, you will see that some changes are already complete. Other path improvements will be finished by 2014.

Here’s what you’ll notice now:

• A realigned Canoe Canal Path under Interstate 5 to eliminate a blind curve and create a new connection to Walnut Road in the Eastgate Woodlands. The original path dangerously combined the hard and soft path under the Walnut Road bridge.

• Replacement of the hard path surface with a new soft path that will eventually connect to Pre’s Trail on the west.

• New stairs from Walnut Road to the soft path as it crosses under the bridge. This has increased safety and a created easier access for path users.

• Enhancements to the area directly under the Walnut Road bridge, including landscaping features to create a park-like setting for stopping and enjoying the Canoe Canal.

If you are in the Whilamut Natural Area, take the time to enjoy these changes made through the cooperation of ODOT and our local partners.