A worker prepares the beams from the temporary detour bridge for transport.
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In the market for bridge beams 93 to 115 ft. (28.3 to 35 m) long? You probably won’t find them on Craigslist, but you could through the state-agency equivalent: an interoffice memo. When Bert Hartman and the ODOT project team realized they had more than 200 concrete and steel beams from the Interstate 5 Willamette River Bridge available for reuse, they reached out to department managers, local liaisons and groups such as the Association of Oregon Counties and the League of Oregon Cities. ODOT offered the salvaged beams for purchase at a minimal price and more than nine respondents indicated interest, both inside and outside the department.
The beams made up the temporary I-5 detour bridge that was dismantled to make way for the new $204 million Willamette River Bridge. Though its design was permitted for only 10 years, the materials used to construct it — particularly the steel and concrete beams — can safely serve motorists for decades to come.
Interested project teams agreed to pay a fee for each beam, but the savings were great. A new beam could cost more than $17,000, yet purchasers paid just $2,500 for beams that could be used for at least another 50 years.
“ODOT’s primary motivation is to get the beams reused, so we essentially cut the price to what it would cost to move and store them,” said Bert Hartman, Bridge Program Unit manager. “For the end users, it’s a really good deal.”
Naturally, the Willamette River Bridge team had first choice of the beams, claiming 50 before others were invited to use them. The beams will be used to build a new bicycle viaduct in the two popular parks that flank the project: the Whilamut Natural Area and Alton Baker Park. The new viaduct will make the trails safer and more convenient for area cyclists, walkers and runners.
Just outside Eugene, Ore., in the middle of the McKenzie River, another project will benefit from the discounted beams. For more than two years, no vehicles other than residents’ cars have been allowed to travel to and from Dearborn Island. The original truss bridge connecting the island with Oregon 126 has been saddled with a three-ton (2.72 t) weight limit because of structural deficiencies. No emergency vehicles, cable company trucks, maintenance equipment or other vehicles weighing more than 6,000 lbs. (2,722 kg) can get to the island’s 14 residences.
The Dearborn Islanders raised $400,000 to pay for design, permitting and construction of a new bridge. With the project’s severe budget constraints, the team leapt to claim four beams from the Willamette River temporary bridge. Because of the salvaged beams, the new bridge will safely and economically carry traffic for at least a half-century.
Six of the temporary bridge’s steel beams will be given a second life in an ODOT bridge near Silverton. The original Butte Creek Bridge, built in 1931, needs to be replaced because of load restrictions. All of the new bridge’s beams will come from the Willamette River Bridge’s temporary structure.
“I’m personally interested in investigating ways that sustainability can be brought into the project development phase,” said Alan Fox, Region 2 project leader. “Using salvaged beams from the temporary Willamette River Bridge was an obvious way to do this on the Butte Creek project.”
Reusing the majority of the beams from the Willamette River temporary bridge keeps tons of debris out of landfills and tons of raw materials from being mined or forged to create new beams. End users also are reaping great savings. New beams cost $14,500 more than a reused beam; the 224 beams being reused on other projects will save their owners a combined $3.25 million. The Craigslist approach was a huge success in giving the beams a second life while spreading economic and environmental benefits to other projects.
For more information, visit www.oregon.gov.
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