Hundreds watch as tugboats deliver massive span
by: Rick Swart, Tugboats maneuver the new Sauvie Island bridge into place Friday after its 8-mile voyage from Terminal 2 in Portland.

Hundreds of spectators lined the shores of the Willamette River and Multnomah Channel Friday to watch the 1,600-ton steel span of the new Sauvie Island Bridge float to its final destination.

The arched span was floated in on a barge that left Terminal 2 in Portland at around 8:45 a.m. after weather conditions, including high winds, eased. Two large tugboats steered the barge downriver, shadowed by Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Coast Guard river patrols.

The unusual flotilla and its 367-foot-long, 77-foot-high cargo passed the Swan Island industrial district and cleared the undercarriage of the St. John's Bridge substructure by about 15 feet. It arrived at the staging area near the old Sauvie Island Bridge at 10:30 a.m.

The remainder of Friday is likely to be spent mooring off and securing the bridge, said Greg Waugh, project manager with Max J. Kuney Construction, the Spokane general contractor hired to build the bridge.

Transport of the span had all the trappings of a media spectacle, with several television and news helicopters buzzing over the site.

'There are more helicopters here today than there are birds,' said one bystander.

A lot of pieces

Construction crews who had been working on the bridge since the operation began in 2005 peered down on the installation from the old bridge as the tugs rotated the span and inched it into place.

Waugh credited subcontractor NorSar LLC, also based out of Washington, for the successful span transport.

'They're really the heavy lifting guys,' Waugh said. 'They're the ones responsible for this move.'

Fought and Co., a Tigard steel fabrication company, manufactured the bridge span, and it was assembled at Terminal 2.

'It was a lot of pieces,' Waugh said.

After arriving at the new bridge support structure, Waugh said Saturday and Sunday will be used to jack the bridge down into onto its new bearing seat and to ballast the barge so it can depart the site.

Waugh anticipated opening the bridge to traffic in spring or summer, and to have full completion of the $35 million project, including demolition of the old bridge, by fall. When completed, the bridge will have two 12-foot-wide lanes for motorized traffic, two 6-foot-wide shoulders with room for bicycles, and two 6-foot-wide sidewalks.

Delays in securing the barge for the span transport have complicated the timeline, Waugh said, noting that the installation was initially planned for October.

'We had delays coming from Hawaii, operator strikes in the Port of Los Angeles, weather up the coast in Alaska,' he said. 'It's just taking up a lot of the float in our schedule, so we're going to have to consolidate other activities to meet our window.'

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