PORTLAND, Ore. - Construction crews began initial work on a new Sellwood Bridge Friday morning following a groundbreaking ceremony.
The planned construction costs of the $270 million bridge over the Willamette River near the Sellwood neighborhood has seen its share of funding challenges.
There was, at one time, a funding gap of nearly $40 million but that has been whittled down to just a few million dollars now and city leaders expect to cover the deficit in other ways, including utilizing additional state funding or even saving money on materials.
However the budget is met, construction started Friday and it is badly needed. Transportation inspectors have rated the current Sellwood Bridge just a “2” on a 1 to 100 scale for safety. Cracks in the bridge’s structure have required shoring up and some upper sections of span have needed some reconstruction.
The current bridge has weight limits in place and that includes prohibiting TriMet buses, which are too heavy for the span, which was dedicated 86 years ago on December 15, 1925. Traffic – and most vehicles – were considerably lighter then than modern vehicles.
Narrow lanes and even narrower sidewalks place drivers, cyclists and pedestrians in close quarters during periods of heavy traffic over the bridge.
Multnomah County leaders have been trying to replace the aging bridge for years, but funding has always been an issue.
At one point they even turned to Clackamas County, where many bridge users live, but earlier this year voters there defeated efforts to provide assistance for paying for the new bridge through a proposed fee increase.
A funding boost came just days ago when the Federal government agreed to award a nearly $18 million grant that will help fund construction.
The construction plan calls for the current bridge to be moved about 40 feet north of it’s current location and used as a detour bridge while the new span is built.
Completion of the new bridge is expected in 2015.