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Bridge closures begin

Repairs expected to be completed by Christmas
News Editor
   Major bridge closures on the Deschutes River and Crooked River bridges over Lake Billy Chinook have begun and will last at least until Christmas, Federal Highway Administration officials say, leaving residents of the Three Rivers area and Airport Park community with limited transportation options.
   On Monday, the Oregon City-based Advanced American Diving Service began work replacing the rotting wood deck of the Deschutes River Bridge. The bridge is closed between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. as the work crew expands the bridge's west entry with a new steel girder and completely replaces the timber deck.
   "This is our big Lincoln Log set -- our big project for the winter," said project engineer Scott Blower.
   Jefferson County is normally responsible for maintenance of the road that crosses these bridges. However, projects of this size and magnitude cannot be done by county work crews because of financial and other limitations. These repairs fall under the Federal Highway Administration's jurisdiction because the bridge is owned by the U.S. Forest Service.
   The FHWA is performing the repairs with money from federal timber receipts and gas tax dollars. They awarded a $1.05 million contract to Advanced American Diving Service to conduct the repairs.
   The county had placed several steel plates over deteriorating sections of the bridge, but an entire replacement of the timber decking was in store. A 10-ton weight limit has been in effect for some time.
   "This project was overdue," said Brent Redenius, the assistant project engineer. "If you look at the timbers they're bending when you walk over them."
   Once the old wooden deck is replaced, travelers will cross the bridge on bare timber until the spring, when paving over it becomes possible.
   During bridge closures, the work crew has a plan to accommodate emergency vehicles if they must reach residents in the Three Rivers or Airport Park communities.
   A roll of temporary timber decking can be put in place within 10-15 minutes -- in about the amount of time it takes an emergency vehicle to reach Lake Billy Chinook from Madras. The work crew is able to receive pages and cell phone messages in the event of this occurring.
   Blower said county residents west of the bridges have been well informed of the closures and emergency plans.
   "The residents aren't necessarily excited about the closures, but they understand they'll be swimming to work if we don't do this," he said.
   The project may take until mid-January at the latest despite the work crew's goal of having it completed by Christmas. In addition to deck repairs, the crew is replacing the aging cable suspenders on both the Crooked River Bridge and Deschutes River Bridge. The entire project should be completed by April 2002.
   Beyond daily bridge closures, some traffic delays that last a maximum of 30 minutes should be expected by commuters throughout the entire renovation.
   FHWA officials and the Advanced American Diving Service crew experienced a delay of their own as closures were supposed to have begun a week ago. However, their timber decking supplier was late in shipping the needed materials.