When will the Yaquina Bay Bridge be replaced? It’s getting old and ODOT has slapped weight limits on it, says county commissioner
When the Lincoln County Commission sat down with the Newport City Council Wednesday night they both pondered Newport without the Yaquina Bay Bridge. The reason? The Grand Lady of the Bay is pushing 80 years old – 80 years of hot sun, endless rain and fog, 100 mile an hour winds and an occasional earthquake, not to mention the millions of tons of vehicles and cargo that has crossed over its 3,200 feet of over-the-water engineering and aesthetic perfection.
The Yaquina Bay Bridge began in 1934 as part of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration which was aimed at putting construction workers back to work in an effort to end the Great Depression. Many are calling for a similar federal effort to help end today’s lingering Great Recession that is now in its fifth year.
But back to the bridge. Although ODOT performs routine, and sometimes not so routine maintenance on it, the bridge’s beauty belies its overall aging which is apparently on the minds of many, and not just among those who cross it frequently wondering which day will be the day that something fails. Or perhaps will it be the arrival of the long expected 9+ richter Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake that nearly everyone believes will bring down the old bridge in short order, isolating both sides of the bay and cutting Highway 101 in two (if not more pieces) here on the Central Coast. However, there has also been slightly more than idle chatter about a new bridge being built parallel to the current one as well as perhaps building a larger bridge somewhere slightly upriver from Newport proper.
County Commissioner Doug Hunt whose recent ascension to the Board of Commissioners has thrust him into compulsory, if not incremental mastery over Central Coast transportation issues, has been talking with ODOT officials about whether there are any state plans to eventually replace the bridge. Hunt told his fellow commissioners and Newport City Councilors during a joint meeting Wednesday night that ODOT has no immediate plans to replace it and what’s more, there’s been no talk about it other than ODOT commenting recently that if Newport continues to urbanize areas around the south end of the bridge, the resulting congestion will produce troublesome back-ups on the bridge bordering on grid-lock because its carrying capacity will soon be exceeded.
Although the CB McCullough designed bay crossing cost the Roosevelt Administration $1.3 million in 1936, today’s estimate to construct a replacement, complete with many years of future motoring capacity, might run the better part of a billion dollars. That’s a thousand million….dollars.
Hunt says although there does not appear to be an ODOT Yaquina Bay Bridge replacement fund “It’s time that we begin talking about it and to get our state lawmakers talking about it because the bridge isn’t getting any younger.” Both the commission and the city council agreed that talking about it is the first step toward replacing it. Something akin to “A journey of a billion dollars begins with a single syllable.”