The Yaquina Bay Bridge may be old but it’s in no danger of falling into the bay or not being able to handle heavy loads that cross it. In fact, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation the Yaquina Bay Bridge will remain absolutely safe for travelers for at least another 20 years. Maybe longer.
ODOT just recently finished $3 million in steel reinforcement work on the bridge’s under-girders or stringers, underneath the span. ODOT Public Information Officer Rick Little said that such an important span like the Yaquina Bay Bridge requires life-extending work. But like any structure, it will have to be replaced eventually.
Little said when it was built in the 1930’s, no one back then could have imagined the demands that modern transportation would put on it nearly 80 years later. But thanks to close attention to repair needs and load limits, the bridge is quite capable of handling the demands that two lanes of travel can put on it. Little says, in fact, some of the biggest loads on the road can safely cross the bridge. However, it’s by ODOT permit only and all traffic, not related to the load, is held at the north and south ends of the bridge. Such heavy loads usually traverse the span within a few minutes posing only minor inconveniences to the motoring public.
So…is the bridge old? Yes, absolutely. But is it absolutely safe for the next 20 years? Yes, says Little. He said many ODOT reports use language that means a great deal to engineers, but can be very misleading to the public. He says many bridge evaluation acronyms like SD, LSL, LC, VC, and terms like “structurally deficient” are key words that pertain to criteria for funding repairs. Repairs. Little said “The public needs to be rest assured of the safety of the bridge and that ODOT is monitoring the Yaquina Bay Bridge very closely.”
As for recent discussions with Lincoln County and city of Newport officials on the status of the Yaquina Bay Bridge, Little says those talks center more on keeping the bridge in place and functioning rather than on any “replacement” program. Little says ODOT is analyzing the entire coastal transportation system with an eye to optimizing travel in a cost effective manner.