Earthquakes could collapse some Oregon bridges

Earthquakes could collapse some Oregon bridges

EUGENE, Ore - Geologists say it's not a question of "if" a large earthquake will happen here in Oregon, rather "when" one will.

"The geological experts say within the next 50 years, we're virtually assured of getting a significant earthquake," says Rick Little with the Oregon Department of Transportation.

A 62-page report compiled by ODOT and Portland State University examines what would happen on Oregon roads if a major earthquake were to hit.

According to the report, a large quake up to 9.0 magnitude could knock down or damage more than 1,000 bridges, make highways impassable and isolate parts of the state.

Older overpasses could collapse, blocking lanes of traffic. Only certain portions of Interstate 5 would be usable.

The report also examines Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast. It says the coast would be completely cut off from the Willamette Valley. A quake could trigger landslides in the coastal mountain areas, plus older bridges could collapse.

Bridges built before 1975 would be the most vulnerable.

Little says their report should not cause fear, but should spark discussion.

He says they can retrofit the bridges to withstand an earthquake but, "We need to find money," he says.

"We need to find money and prioritize bridge improvements to specific structures," Little says. "find out which ones need immediate repair or replacement and find the money to do it."