Not everyone is happy with the new Crooked River Bridge
Local citizens question final design of bridge into Prineville
While hoorays have been heard around the city for the completion of the Crooked River Bridge, others are rallying in dismay.
"It's the entry into Prineville and I think it sets the tone of the town," longtime Prineville resident Molly Kee said. "If it looks bad, then it's not a positive thing for our community."
Her complaints regarding the new bridge are solely based on the concrete barriers dividing the roadway from the pedestrian walkway.
"I'm upset because if you make a pretty bridge, it seems a shame to put those permanent construction barriers up and turn it into a bridge that's not very pretty," Kee continued.
The aesthetics of the new bridge are now up for debate, being weighed against its functionality and safety.
"I have heard people commenting about the barriers and I think it's a difficult thing sometimes to meet the tastes of the public at large," City Manager Robb Corbett said. "I understand the concerns of those who feel as if there could have been a more decorative solution for that end of the bridge."
Oregon Department of Transportation Assistant Project Manager Pat Cimmiyotti was adamant that the concrete barriers are a necessity for the speed and volume of vehicles crossing the bridge daily.
"On this particular bridge, the barrier is put in there for safety reason," he said. "Our normal guardrail that you see up and down the highway is not the right system to place on this bridge. The reason is that the metal guardrail is considered a flexible rail, meaning when it is impacted by a vehicle it will deflect up to four feet or more. The concrete barrier is a non-flexible barrier, so when a car impacts it, it doesn't deflect. So when you have pedestrians adjacent to that barrier, like we have on our project, the concrete barrier is required."
"I can understand that, but I've walked every weekday over the bridge for 20 years and I haven't noticed that it was very unsafe the way it used to be," Kee added. "I've seen cable systems that don't look so bad, but they would still give some safety."
For now, ODOT has no plans of revamping the bridge's safety barriers and maintains that the bridge that has been constructed was the bridge initially planned.
"The artist rendering in March of 2006, looks exactly like the bridge we have built right now," Cimmiyotti said. "The picture last year was an image of what the bridge was supposed to look like. We took a picture after the bridge was completed and the two looked the same. So all along, that's why the city was supportive of the bridge, because I think they understood what was going to be constructed."
"I am happy with the functionality and I'm happy, generally, with the aesthetics of the bridge," Corbett said. "I feel it's unfortunate that we couldn't find a design that would have made everybody happy. In the conversations that I've had in the community, I've had people tell me that they don't like the barriers and I've had people tell me that they're glad the barriers are there because of the safety-related issues that might come up."
With the intended barriers in place, ODOT officials are still open to hearing from the public about the bridge's design for future installations.
"I think the bridge looks very nice," Cimmiyotti continued. "That's a barrier that we utilize on a lot of our projects. We didn't anticipate this particular problem, but we will not sacrifice safety for the traveling public or the pedestrian. At this time we don't have any plans of changing the barrier out, unless somebody comes up with something that we're not aware of."
"I'm trying to get people on the bandwagon, because if enough people do complain or just express their dissatisfaction with it then I really think they're more likely to look at it," Kee added.
While ODOT is concerned about providing safety to the drivers and pedestrians on the bridge, the designers were also asked to match the Crooked River Bridge to the bridges on North Main and Harwood Streets.
"It's grey and red, color-wise we matched it to the one on Main Street at the request of the city," Cimmiyotti said. "The lights match the city's luminaires. There was quite a bit of coordination with the city on the aesthetic value of the bridge. It's not like we didn't work with the city."
What are your thoughts?
Molly Kee would also like to hear from you is you are also unsatisfied with the aesthetics of the Crooked River Bridge. She can be reached at 447-7403.