Prime contractor HP Civil Inc. of Stayton built a work bridge beneath the historic Caveman Bridge, signaling the first phase of the rehabilitation project is underway in Grants Pass.
Attached with cables to the concrete bridge, the work bridge provides access to the belly of the 86-year-old structure, which spans the Rogue River as the gateway to the Redwood Empire of southwest Oregon and northern California.
The $5.3 million rehabilitation project is the first major upgrade of the Caveman Bridge, designed by famed Oregon bridge designer Conde McCullough, since its construction in 1931.
“Through the winter, the crew will repair concrete and perform crack injections,” said ODOT Project Manager Tim Fletcher. “The community will then see lane closures at night when the rehabilitation work transitions from underneath the bridge to on top of it.”
Construction work that affects traffic will involve single-lane night closures from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. A total of 12 full-night closures, from 9 p.m. until 6:30 a.m., will be scheduled as needed during the two-year project. Special project provisions scheduled no-work weekends to avoid conflicts with annual celebrations and other key community events.
Strengthening the bridge involves repairing exposed steel rebar, injecting the cracks with epoxy, and installing titanium rebar. The historic gateway sign on the north side of the bridge will also undergo rehabilitation by the city of Grants Pass.
The city of Grants Pass, the Grants Pass and Josephine County Chamber of Commerce, and adjacent businesses partnered with ODOT to develop the project. Information collected from that collaboration in addition to traffic data collected by ODOT showed that any construction-related lane closures would quickly cause traffic — nearly 19,000 vehicles daily — to back up through the city.
An open house last spring showcased the needed bridge improvements and detailed construction impacts to traffic and nearby businesses. An outstanding turnout by the community included a special appearance by the famed Oregon Caveman Club of Grants Pass, a boisterous group of civic boosters formed in 1922.
“Caveman Bridge is an important connection for the city and its identity,” said Colene Martin, President-CEO of the Grants Pass and Josephine County Chamber of Commerce. “We know it will take some time to complete and have some impacts but in the end, it
will all be worth it.”
ODOT was asked at a Grants Pass City Council meeting last summer whether the agency had considered widening the bridge to comply with the Americans with Disability Act.
The ODOT project development team investigated how to widen the sidewalks at its narrowest points — two feet, eight inches — where the bridge arches meet the walkway. The team worked with the State Historic Preservation Office for the environmental permit. Three options were researched: (1) curb extensions, also known as bulb-outs or bump-outs; (2) widening the sidewalk along the entire length of the bridge; and (3) narrowing bridge rail. The State Historic Preservation Office determined those three options would have “an adverse effect” on the historic bridge.
“Clearly, there is a need for better accessibility on the Caveman Bridge that wasn’t envisioned back in 1931,” said ODOT Area Manager Art Anderson. “People who use wheelchairs have a difficult time passing the bridge arches.
“Our staff continues to evaluate options available within the scope of this project with the goal to make the sidewalks more accessible for everyone.”
Prime contractor HP Civil Inc. will:
• Repair sections of cracked concrete, exposed rebar and failed joints along the nearly 550-foot structure;
• Repair bridge deck delamination by grinding off the existing asphalt cap and replacing it with a stronger, premixed polymer concrete;
• Replace the bridge rail, maintaining its unique aesthetic while meeting today’s safety standards;
• Add new lighting that maintains the character of the bridge’s street lights; and
• Pressure wash the concrete bridge and recapture all water.
New lighting will mirror the bridge’s existing historic lamps. The old decorative rail will be cut from the bridge. Those sections that are intact afterward will be available for sale to the public by HP Civil Inc.