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Porter Road bridge on replacement fast track

COURTESY PHOTO - The Porter Road bridge north of Forest Grove is more than twice as old as its original life expectancy. Its being replaced this summer.Two years ago, plans to replace the Porter Road Bridge to the north of Forest Grove were at the bottom of Washington County’s maintenance priority list.

Following a recent inspection, the Department of Land Use & Transportation recommended the county’s Board of Commissioners move that project up the list and fast-track the bridge replacement project — which will now begin this summer.

An open house last week provided information on the project.

Built from timber in 1950, the current Porter Road Bridge has seen several patch jobs to keep it standing despite an original life expectancy of only 30 years.

It’s now 66 years old and those patches have done well to keep the bridge from falling into Council Creek. Though it definitely needs to be replaced, county officials don’t expect it to crumble overnight.

“If we were concerned about a collapse in the near future, we’d just close the bridge,” said LUT’s Senior Program Educator Kim Haughn. “But we do want to get it replaced before anything does happen.”

The current bridge has a weight-bearing capacity of 13 tons, though that hasn’t stopped long-haul trucks from traversing the bridge with average legal loads of 40 tons, leading the Washington County Sheriff’s office to issue several citations, according to Haughn.

A new bridge would increase the weight capacity to around 75 tons.

“Obviously, replacing a bridge can be expensive,” Haughn said. Initially, county officials thought they’d simply restrict the bridge to bikes and pedestrians only, she said, but Porter Road residents and the roughly 1,100 vehicle trips across the bridge daily helped change their minds.

“So we don’t want to take the risk of letting it go on any longer,” Haughn said.

Using Gain Share funds, county commissioners voted to approve the $990,000 project.

Gain Share funds come through a strategic investment program that gives large corporations in Washington County a tax break for supporting lots of local employees. But as part of the program, the corporations agree to give back those tax breaks over the years, to be used for schools and infrastructure projects

like the one at Porter Road Bridge.

The project will begin in August after Verboort Road closures have concluded as a result of a roundabout installation on Highway 47.

Porter Road at the bridge will be closed off for approximately four months.

“We’ll do our best to not overlap Verboort closures and Porter Road closures,” Haughn said. “We don’t want to inconvenience folks.”

Project Manager Charlie Stearns said several people approached him at the open house. Most were “happy about the bridge being replaced in such a short time frame — and not overlapping closures of Verboort and Porter Road.”