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Building bridges is a good idea

Giving Clackamas County the unfettered ability to replace the aging Fields Bridge that links Willamette Falls Drive and Borland Road across the Tualatin River is the most prudent course of action.

Even if it causes a temporary restriction in local residents' use of Fields Bridge Park.

No doubt the abilities of bridge engineers and contractors in the mid-20th century did not equal the more developed skills of today's bridge builders. That's why we believe the deteriorating 54-year-old span should be replaced soon with one that is expected to remain strong beyond the year 2080.

There will be no direct cost to West Linn taxpayers. The budgeted $4.5 million expense is being covered by a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

We believe that the county's plan to keep the connection between Willamette Falls Drive and Borland Road open for travel during the 2-3-year construction period is prudent. We can't imagine the negative effect on the flow of traffic should that major arterial be completely closed for two years.

The county's plan to construct a temporary bridge just south of the existing bridge to maintain traffic flow during construction would save $150,000 compared to siting the temporary structure on the north side of Fields Bridge.

The plan would involve the loss to West Linn residents of a small portion of the park and the use of its westernmost entrance, but only during the construction period.

We think that's a small price to pay to achieve an up-to-date structure that would survive through nearly all of our lifetimes. While a few trees will be removed, efforts are underway to protect all significant trees in the area.

We recommend that West Linn voters approve the Nov. 7 ballot measure that would allow temporary use of a portion of Fields Bridge Park for this construction project and the temporary bridge. This ballot action is necessary due to a provision of the city charter that requires a majority vote to use city parkland for any non-park use.

After the bridge is constructed, the temporary bridge would be removed, trees and native plants would be added, and a pathway graded below the bridge that would connect to the path system being developed by the city of West Linn.

We see this proposal as more than a fair exchange and a worthwhile move toward improving the livability of this community.