Bridge reopens ahead of schedule after four-day closure for major repairs
Note: This e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Jeff Wilson’s subscribers July 21, 2023. To subscribe to Sen. Wilson’s e-newsletters, click here.
Photo credit: Cacaphony/ CC 3.0
Great news for southwest Washington! The Lewis and Clark Bridge at Longview reopened Thursday, four days ahead of schedule. If you are headed for the Oregon panhandle this weekend, no need for a long detour.
The Department of Transportation had planned to reopen Sunday, after repairs to “finger joints” on the bridge deck. These joints allow the bridge a little “give,” and are critical to its integrity. We can’t let get them get stiff. We are going to need to keep minding details like these as long as we depend on the bridge as our quickest route to Oregon.
The bridge is 94 years old, and it is the only Columbia River crossing between Vancouver and Astoria. Twenty thousand vehicles travel it every day. In Vancouver, the states of Oregon and Washington are making plans to replace their 106-year-old Interstate Bridge. We need to start thinking about the future of our bridge, too.
I have asked the Senate Transportation Committee for a hearing about the future of the Lewis and Clark Bridge. What will it take to keep it standing forever, and meet future traffic loads? How much would it cost to replace? Or perhaps, how much would it cost to maintain it, and build a new one at a nearby location?
The need may not be imminent. But highway projects like these move like glaciers. You have to think at least 20 years out.
In Longview, I’ve heard reports of occasional concrete chunks falling from the bridge deck. I’ve seen the shards at the riverbank. At the very least, if we want the bridge to carry traffic another 94 years, we should make sure it gets the funding to keep it in first-class shape. We should find out how much it will be, and start planning for it in Olympia.
Most of our state’s vital Columbia River crossings were built in the pre-Interstate era, and are at least 50 years old. All deserve this level of attention. The Astoria-Megler Bridge was built in 1966. The Dalles Bridge went up in 1953. Already there are plans to replace the vintage-1924 Hood River Bridge. In the next few decades the same questions will probably be asked in communities up and down the river.
The quick turnaround on the Longview project is a credit to the Department of Transportation, and to contracting processes that gave the contractor an incentive to finish on time or before. It is a promising sign. Let’s keep our crossings in good repair and get ready for the projects to come.
Read our 19th District newsletter about the 2023 legislative session
In case you missed this in the mail –
Our 2023 legislative session is done for the year. I joined with my 19th District seatmates in this recap of the biggest issues that came before us in Olympia. My thanks to Jim Walsh and Joel McEntire! If this didn’t come to you in the mail, you can read it here.
Thanks for reading — it is an honor serving you.
Sen. Jeff Wilson
19th Legislative District
Telephone: (360) 786-7636
Mailing address: P.O. Box 40419 /Olympia, WA 98504
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