Council Considers Van Buren Bridge Monday; Will State Dollars Save It

After dedicating a significant portion of time to the subject in the previous work session, the Van Buren Bridge returns to the Corvallis City Council meeting agenda for a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17.  

The council is slated to discuss a resolution that supports Preservation Works submitting a joint application with the City of Corvallis to take ownership of the bridge, which is considered historic, though it is not yet officially registered as such. There are plans for a $72 million replacement bridge crossing the Willamette River.  

Historic preservationists want to slide the old bridge 175-feet south for use by pedestrians and cyclists. A report released by Preservation Works lays out the proposed bridge relocation plan, saying the bridge could be moved for $6 million, around half what was estimated by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). Finding the money is another matter. 

Rosalind Keeney with Preservation Works said the group anticipates that ODOT will pay for the move, saying the preservationists have shown there is a feasible alternative and citing a legal obligation to consider other avenues.  

Keeney said State Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) has spoken with ODOT on the subject and is actively working to secure funding. She added that the bridge has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by ODOT and the State Historic Preservation Office. 

“If the City decides to apply for the bridge, they will be given at least three months to work out the details, and if that can’t be done, the City at no cost or obligation can back out of the deal,” Keeney said in an email to the Advocate. “What we are asking for is the City to keep the door open to save and reuse the bridge for a bike/ped lane.” 

The relocation report was prepared by Smith Monroe Gray, Inc., Engineers for Preservation Works, and says it delivers the option requested from ODOT for the past nine months as part of the new Van Buren Bridge project. ODOT is advertising the existing truss bridge for sale with requirements for its relocation or demolition. 

The new replacement bridge project is funded under Oregon House Bill 217, which involves federal funding as well. Stipulations of the funding may not allow offsetting cost savings, which may have been possible by use of the existing bridge as a detour during construction or by reducing multi-use aspects. 

The current Van Buren Avenue Bridge is a steel through-truss style that came into use in 1913, crossing from Corvallis into Linn County on OR34/Highway 210EB, with a single eastbound lane. The newly designed replacement will have increased vehicle lanes. The original bridge was built in 1913 by Andrew J. Porter and the Coast Bridge Company. It has been repainted and the deck surface replaced, along with other maintenance in the past 22 years, at an approximate cost of more than $3 million in the past 22 years.  

“The benefits of relocating and repurposing the existing Van Buren truss spans make this project feasible from the perspective of costs and future use of the bridge,” the relocation report said. “The project will provide a very friendly pedestrian crossing in terms of profile grades and elevation change when compared to the proposed new bridge.”  

By Cody Mann