Repairs underway on Ashland’s Water street bridge

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Prime contractor Wildish Standard Paving started a 12-week repair project on Ashland’s Water Street Bridge last month that will extend the life of the bridge at least another 25 years, according to ODOT bridge engineers.

Built in 1956, the bridge serves northbound Lithia Way traffic as it spans both Ashland Creek and Water Street near the Ashland Plaza. Absent a repair project, the bridge – with moderate cracks in its deck and support structure – would be posted with load limits that prevent heavier vehicles, from commercial trucks to fire trucks, from crossing.

“The project is designed to extend the bridge life at least another 25 years,” said Public Service Representative Dennis Steers, “with the least cost and disruption to the community.”

ODOT hosted two open houses, in November 2010 and early last month, at the nearby Plaza Inn and Suites to inform the Ashland community of impacts from the bridge repair project slated for completion in mid-May. The agency worked with the Ashland Chamber of Commerce and nearby businesses to develop a schedule that finishes no later than Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the
summer tourism season.

The project’s first stage began under the bridge, where crews injected epoxy-based glue into the interior girders and cross beams. The second stage requires a transition to the bridge deck to remove asphalt. Then, the contractor will perform drilling and shear anchor installation. Finally, the bridge deck will be repaved with asphalt. During these stages, traffic will be limited to a single lane on Lithia Way.

“Traffic impacts like lane closures and detours will occur at different project stages,” said Steers. “This schedule allows us to get in and get out quickly, reducing impacts to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Ashland’s summer tourism industry.”

The repair project includes drilling and installing about 600 shear anchors into the concrete beams. The drilling phase is the noisiest portion of the project and necessitates reducing Lithia Way traffic to a single-lane configuration.

“The drilling noise is basically equivalent to what you’d find on a typical city street,” said Senior Bridge Engineer Bob Grubbs. “If you’re standing right next to the work, the noise can reach about 90 decibels. It is like running a food processor in your kitchen.”

According to Steers, the Lithia Way ramp to Water Street remains open during the project. To accommodate traffic from Lithia Way to Main Street, southbound Main Street north of the project will be narrowed to a single lane near Helman Street.

“Some parking spaces will be unavailable on Lithia Way and Water Street during the repair project,” Steers said. “The impacts are moderate for a bridge repair project like this.”

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