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BRIDGING the gap

Willamette Falls Festival celebrates the arch bridge reopening


by: VERN UYETAKE - More than 1,500 feet of railing was replaced on the Oregon City-West Linn Arch Bridge. A couple from West Linn and a couple from Oregon City will be celebrating their wedding anniversaries in a peculiar fashion on Oct. 14 — they will be renewing their vows on the newly finished arch bridge that spans between the two cities.

Ted and Shari Anderson of Oregon City and Michel and Toni Layoun from West Linn will be two of the couples taking part in the Willamette Falls Festival and reopening celebration of the arch bridge.

The arch bridge, built in 1922, has been closed for the last 22 months. It will reopen to traffic Oct. 15. But before it is taken over by traffic once again, the Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition is throwing a big three-day party.

The wedding vow renewals taking place are a nod to a wedding that occurred on the bridge Dec. 28, 1922. West Linn’s Ella Averta Parker and Oregon City’s Louis E. Hartke Jr. were married on the bridge as part of the new bridge’s dedication. Their union symbolized the joining of the two communities.

Toni Layoun and her husband will be celebrating their 23rd anniversary Oct. 14. But it was pure happenstance that they got roped into renewing their vows on the bridge. Toni Layoun had stopped by the Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition booth during the West Linn Old Time Fair and commented that she would not be attending the bridge reopening because it was her anniversary. The person at the booth then jumped at the chance of recreating the 1922 wedding.

“The hardest part is figuring out what to wear,” Layoun said, adding that the ceremony organizers originally want them to wear period costumes. Instead, she settled on a mother-of-the-bride style of a dress.

The Layouns’ two teenage children will stand as attendants, and they have invited family to the renewal.

Ted and Shari Anderson will be celebrating their 27th anniversary Oct. 12. Shari, the Clackamas County treasurer, had commented once that she thought it was neat the bridge was reopening on her anniversary. When word got through the grapevine, she and her husband were soon committed to renewing their vows.

“We did go ahead and take advantage of this opportunity to get new rings,” she said.

The Andersons have lived in Oregon City since 1985, and their two grown daughters will be their attendants. They have also invited family to the ceremony.

“People think it’s a real neat idea,” she said. “I think it’s a nice way to mark the reopening.”

The Andersons and the Layouns will not be the only couples renewing their vows. The coalition invited all couples to the rededication ceremony, which is set for 1 p.m. Oct. 14. The ceremony will be conducted by Beverly Mason of Radiant Touch Weddings, and the Willamette Falls Symphony Brass Ensemble will provide the music. After the ceremony and the bridge reopening event, there will be a reception back at Pacific Crest Grand Ballroom at 3 p.m. with cake and sparkling cider.

There will also be a variety of events over the course of three days for the Willamette Falls Festival that will highlight the heritage, culture and recreational opportunities in the area.

On Oct. 12, “An Evening of Arts and Culture” kicks off with the Oregon City and West Linn high school bands marching across the bridge at 5:30 p.m., after which the public is free to walk and picnic on it.

On Oct. 13, “Family Fun Day” events for all ages include an artisan farmers market, a trolley heritage tour that also runs Oct. 14, a painting demonstration, speakers, a poetry workshop, costumed re-enactors, RiPPLe Legacy Sculpture interactive project and a Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde tribal encampment with Native American drumming, dancing and craft demonstrations.

Musical entertainment on Oct. 13 will include performances by Grammy-nominated blues singer Ellen Whyte, classic soul band Deep Blue Soul Revue and Cascade Blues Association’s Hall of Famer Lisa Mann performing with award-winning guitarist Sonny Hess. The evening will end with a Sternwheeler Rose Wine and Cheese Event and a fireworks show over the Willamette River.

Oct. 14 is “Get Active Day” and will highlight outdoor recreation with a fun-athlon (run/paddle/bike) as well as a 5K fun run. Activities will then move onto the bridge for the wedding vow rededication and the ceremonial bridge reopening.

Proceeds from the Willamette Falls Festival will benefit the now-closed historic Willamette Falls Canal and Locks. The Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition is dedicated to protecting, enhancing and sharing the heritage of the Willamette Falls region between the Tualatin and Clackamas rivers.

by: VERN UYETAKE - Construction work was still powering forward Sept. 27, making the last efforts to reopen the arch bridge on time.

Restoration

The arch bridge was designed by the renowned Oregon bridge engineer Conde McCollough and opened in 1922. It replaced a wooden suspension bridge built in 1888.

The bridge is now back to its original condition.

“It is to the credit of designer Conde McCullough that the bridge went for 90 years without the need for major repairs,” said Oregon City Mayor Doug Neeley.

Through the restoration, there is a new roadway, sidewalks, railings, pylons and replica historic lights. To add strength and longevity to the bridge, repairs were made to the steel under the original concrete coating.

“This was not a typical project for ODOT. Like remodeling your house, bridge rehabilitation is full of unknowns and surprises. Replacement was not an option due to cost as well as the bridge’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places,” states a newsletter from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

In the process, 18,000 square feet of gunite (concrete) was removed using a high-pressure water jet. More than 1,500 feet of concrete railing was replaced.

Though the original lights on the bridge were lost years ago, replicas were fabricated and installed.

“This entire project was especially dangerous. The contractor faced challenges working high above a fast flowing river, inside the confined spaces of the arch ribs and working in areas with limited access,” according to ODOT.

Though the bridge will open Oct. 15, finishing touches will continue to be made until March 31, 2013. An estimated 14,000 vehicles crossed the bridged daily before it closed.

Construction costs for the bridge are $14.6 million, paid 89.7 percent with federal funds and 10.3 percent from state funds.

“The closure of the arch bridge for the past two years has been a significant burden on West Linn and Oregon City citizens and businesses,” said West Linn Mayor John Kovash. “We are happy to join in celebrating the grand reopening of this critical component of our transportation system.”

A ceremony at 2 p.m. Oct. 14 will include remarks from ODOT Director Matt Garrett, the mayors of Oregon City and West Linn, representatives from the Federal Highway Administration and from Wildish Standard Paving, the construction firm. Two time capsules will be dedicated.

A parade of historical cars from 1915 to 1932 will be the first vehicles to cross the restored bridge.

“As stewards of Oregon’s historic McCullough bridges, ODOT is proud to be reopening a restored arch bridge to traffic when promised. This beautiful piece of Oregon history is ready to serve the next generation of travelers and stands as a grand gateway to communities on both sides of the river,” said ODOT Region 1 Manager Jason Tell.

For more information, visit willamettefallsfestival.com.

by: VERN UYETAKE - ODOT Project Manager Wayne Statler leads a tour of the almost completely renovated arch bridge.

by: VERN UYETAKE - Replicas of the original lights were fabricated to complete the restoration of the history Oregon City-West Linn Arch Bridge.




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