Bids are scheduled to be opened in October on a $30 million rehabilitation of the aging St. Johns Bridge, where falling concrete has forced officials to install netting to catch debris sloughing from sidewalks and the bridge deck.

A bid opening had been scheduled for April but was pushed back because of 'unresolved community issues,' said Matt Garrett, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

St. Johns residents have long complained about the amount of heavy truck traffic the bridge funnels through the community. They want the rehabilitation to include money for making the bridge safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. But that could raise the cost of the project substantially.

The restoration will include replacement of the concrete bridge deck and sidewalks, upgrades of the bridge drainage and lighting systems and improvements to west-side ramps. Neighborhood groups also are requesting new bike lanes.

Lead-based paint and rust will be scraped from the soaring twin suspension towers and replaced with a new, lead-free, corrosion-inhibiting paint.

A traffic management plan during construction has been recommended by a technical advisory committee of state and city officials and engineers, representatives of the Port of Portland, Metro, Tri-Met and St. Johns and Linnton residents.

Christie Holmgren, an ODOT coordinator on the project, said the agency does not have the authority to limit bridge truck traffic unless there is a safety concern. 'That's a city (of Portland) issue,' she said.

The committee called for reducing bridge traffic to one eastbound and one westbound lane and full nighttime closure during deck replacement work. That phase of construction is expected to take approximately eight months.

Short-term closures could occur while the contractor encapsulates the bridge towers prior to removing the old paint and applying the new coat.

The bridge, which opened in 1931 to replace Portland's last ferry, was built at a cost of $3.9 million. It averages 20,500 vehicles a day.

Restoring the bridge to its former glory is expected to take about two years.

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