New plans for old bridges

Three small bridges on state highways near Emigrant Lake will get major work this summer, resulting in closure for 12 weeks for through traffic on Old Siskiyou Highway.

Starting next week, The Oregon Department of Transportation will completely rebuild 91-year old Neil Creek Bridge on Highway 66 at the approach to the lake, making it wider and safer, at a cost of $970,760. Traffic will be one-lane, with signal light, during the job.

Two 97-year old bridges on Old Siskiyou Highway — Dollarhide and Steinman — are considered historic and will be rehabilitated to preserve their character, said ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming.

Part of Old Highway 99, the first paved road over the Siskiyou Pass connecting Oregon and Washington, they will get new bridge rails, new road surface, rehabilitation of the historic rock wall and cleaning and repairing of cracked girders and walls, said Leaming.

Work on Steinman Bridge is expected to begin the last week of May.

The contractor, West Coast Construction of Coos Bay, will do the work for $996,886 and will be required to keep one of the bridges fully open at all times. Local residents will get access to homes via detours, he said, and all work is slated to be done by the end of October.

ODOT will hold a public hearing on the projects and to disclose construction and detour plans from 4:30 to 6 p.m., Monday, May 16, at Jackson County Fire Dist. No. 5 substation, 40 Neil Creek Road.

The Steinman Bridge is locally notable for looping back on itself, the only one in the state highway inventory to do so, says Leaming. The two bridges are also the oldest in the state's inventory, matching those on the Columbia Gorge Highway, he added.

"It's a neat highway. The old South Pacific mainline traveled right through there and the Wobblies (International Workers of the World) marched here on their way to a rally" in Fresno, he said. The Great Train Robbery of 1923, committed by the d'Autremont Brothers, took place at nearby tunnel 13, killing four.

Contractor on the Neil Creek job is Legacy Construction of Salem, formerly Ross Brothers, authors of the jobs on the Blackwell Hill — or Seven Oaks bridge and interchange — and interchange projects in Roseburg, resulting, because of lateness, in legal problems with ODOT, said Leaming.

"The state had concerns about the way Ross Brothers submitted paperwork," he said, adding that the state had to get rid of contract inspectors and bring in their own to get the job on track. "In a negotiated settlement, Ross was banned from bidding on state work, but they weren't prohibited from coming back as long as their principals weren't involved." Legacy is qualified to bid on the Neil Creek job and has their insurance and bonding in order, said Leaming.

The Seven Oaks job was slated for two years but took four, he said.

"As with all contractors,we will be on our toes, keeping an eye on them," he said. "This (Neil Creek) is a pretty simple project and there are penalties for lateness."

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