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Falling down? Bridge draws concern

by: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Local leaders are concerned about Union Pacific Railroad's trolley bridge between Oregon City and Gladstone. While the railroad says it isn't worried after last year's inspection, Oregon City wants a more thorough survey.Union Pacific Railroad is considering removal of a rusty Clackamas River bridge abandoned in 1958 upon discontinuation of trolley services between Oregon City and Portland.

Railroad officials say the bridge “has passed recent inspections to verify structural integrity.” But Oregon City officials call it “severely undermined” and worry that it will fall into the river.

Nearly 1,000 tons of iron, steel and concrete could injure boaters or swimmers on its way down. A falling bridge also would disrupt the fragile ecosystem around Clackamette Cove. Possibly damming the river, a resulting flood could then drown several square miles of the surrounding residential and commercial areas.

by: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Byron Boyce and Jerry Herrmann of the Lower Clackamas River Task Force survey erosion damage imperiling the safety and stability of a railroad-owned bridge over the Clackamas River.In a letter to Union Pacific last month, Oregon City City Manager David Frasher informed the railroad company of concerns from several citizens, including Byron Boyce and Jerry Herrmann of the Lower Clackamas River Task Force, about the safety and stability of the trolley bridge. They hope that the bridge could be rehabilitated into a pedestrian crossing with some public investment, possibly from Metro.

In the early 2000s, Union Pacific was required to perform emergency erosion and structural support measures due to erosion under the bridge. Since then, city inspectors saw river rocks move under the bridge into a large gap in the bridge’s concrete foundation visible even from the opposite bank of the river.

“Once again, the abutment foundation on the Oregon City side appears to be experiencing severe erosion from the Clackamas River,” Frasher wrote. “In response, the City Commission has requested that further investigation and/or remedial action be undertaken by UPRR and/or the State of Oregon to address these concerns. I am transmitting this letter to respectfully request that UPRR more substantively address the concerns raised about the safety and stability of this structure in Oregon City.”

Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt called bridge removal “a possible alternative” moving forward.

“Union Pacific has initiated an ongoing dialogue with a number of entities regarding the potential future of the bridge,” Hunt wrote in a prepared statement.

Gladstone City Administrator Pete Boyce received a call from Union Pacific asking about properties that could be affected by bridge removal, which led some to speculate that the railroad company might be getting more serious about the option.

“Everyone wants to see a good solution there, but I don’t know how serious Union Pacific is about removing the bridge,” Boyce said.

The Lower Clackamas River Task Force will meet 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the Water Environmental Services boardroom, 15941 Agnes Ave., Oregon City, to discuss a possible public-private partnership to address undermining of the Union Pacific bridge and other erosion concerns.




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  • 13 Jul 2014

    Partly Cloudy 78°F 59°F

  • 14 Jul 2014

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