Single-lane closures of the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge will take place intermittently 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Friday, June 14 for semi-annual bridge deck welding, the Port of Hood River announced last week. Motorists should expect 15 minute delays during these hours.

Port crews will be working with crews from Bulldog Welding to perform weld repairs to the bridge, as well as replacing and repairing sections of guardrail, said port officials.

These routine repairs follow two large-scale repair projects that led to extensive series of full and partial closures in April and May. April closures were to replace the lift span motors, and the May nighttime closures were to conduct miscellaneous truss and steel repairs.

“The port scheduled these long nighttime closures in May in order to avoid months of daytime closures extending into summer and the fruit harvest season,” said Port Executive Director Michael McElwee back when the 16 night closures for May were first announced.

Had crews committed to doing the work via single-lane closures rather than the complete night closures, Port Facilities Manager John Mann said that it would have likely taken until August to finish the necessary work, which included repairs to the bridge portal frame, rail post replacement, hand rail pipe replacement, rocker bearing modifications, stringer connection modifications, floorbeam knee brace repairs, bottom chord slice repairs and other miscellaneous steel repairs.

“The work that was done, from my perspective and my staff’s, changed the whole way that the bridge operates. It’s great,” Mann told the port commission during a May 21 meeting.

Ultimately, the contract crews from Abhe & Svoboda were able to complete their work a week ahead of schedule, so some of the May closures were cancelled.

The welding work being done this week is to maintain the integrity of the metal deck plates that form the surface of the bridge — one of several major structural problems with the current bridge.

“We’re holding them (the deck plates) together, but they’re failing,” Mann told the port commission during a November 2018 meeting, where the commissioners decided to reduce capital investment in the bridge for the next couple years in order to redirect attention to the bridge replacement project.

“We do everything in our power to keep that bridge functioning well, but it was built in 1924 and it’s tired,” Mann said at that meeting.

The first phase of the replacement project — Completion of the Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS), a series of environmental impact studies and reports required under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) — is expected to be finished by the first quarter of 2021. Physical construction of the bridge isn’t expected to be done until the last quarter of 2028, according to the port’s most recent long-term conceptual schedule for the project.

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