Rebuilding 122nd Avenue Bridge begins

Find out the good news about when this rural outer East Portland bridge over Johnson Creek, near Leach Botanical Garden, will again be open to traffic …

Since early 2016, the 122nd Avenue Bridge over Johnson Creek, connecting the Pleasant Valley neighborhood to SE Foster Road, has been closed to cars and trucks — after being damaged by flooding.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Unless you motor south of Foster Road along twisting and turning SE 122nd Avenue, you may not even have known that what many call the “Leach Garden Bridge” – but which is actually named the 122nd Avenue Bridge – has been closed to cars and trucks since early 2016.

The last major Johnson Creek flood, which crested on December 7, 2015, brought floods of debris crashing onto the bridge’s structural members below the decking.

Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) inspectors and technicians began examining the bridge, and on February 3, 2016 closed the bridge to motor vehicle traffic.

Although, looking from below, the bridge looks sturdy, years of floods leading to entire trees and smaller flotsam to crash into its piers, convinced engineers that it needs to be replaced.

This closure caused the cars enroute to Leach Botanical Garden to take a long detour away from SE 112th Avenue – and cut off Pleasant Valley neighbors from going north on SE 122nd Avenue, without themselves confronting a long detour. At the time, neighbors said they were outraged that the bridge wouldn’t be replaced until 2019.

>> To read about the closure, and see photos of the debris piled against the bridge, CLICK HERE. And, to find out why, a month later, engineers said the bridge would remain closed until it could be replaced, CLICK HERE.

Neighbors say they’re happy to learn that the bridge replacement project is beginning sooner – this summer – instead of even later.

But, to the delight of many attending an open house on June 4, PBOT officials announced that the bridge replacement project was to begin the first of July – this year.

“It’s about time!” exclaimed neighbor Sarah Meltzer, one of about 40 people who attended the event. “It seems that, once again, outer East Portland – especially here in the rural part – has been ignored and neglected.

“But, this is really good news; I’m glad to see the project begin this year,” Meltzer told East Portland News.

The contractor – Vancouver, Washington, based Cascade Bridge – has begun moving equipment and materials to the project site, staging in the Leach Botanical Garden parking lot and along the street.

When the bridge was closed in 2016 until it could be entirely rebuilt, PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera was on site explaining the bridge engineer’s findings. East Portland News archive image

“July 15 is the beginning of ‘in-water work window’, to limit possible impacts to federally-protected endangered salmon species; the contractor can start removing the existing bridge,” said PBOT Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera.

By the end of this year’s in-water work window, which closes on August 30, the contractor will have removed the old bridge supports, frame, and decking, and will have worked to protect the bank, Rivera commented.

Contractors have about six weeks to complete work in Johnson Creek, removing the piers and superstructure, PBOT Project Manager Cameron Glasgow tells neighbors.

No more piers in creek
“The new bridge is designed to be friendly to the natural environment, and specifically to the context where it is located,” Rivera explained. “It will cross the creek without having any part of the structure in the water, providing a more natural environment for the steelhead salmon and other wildlife to enjoy their native habitat.

“Keeping the bridge abutments away from the water will also prevent any creek flooding from affecting it in the future, making it more reliable for the public,” Rivera added.

The replacement 122nd Avenue Bridge will span Johnson Creek, without piers, neighbors learn from PBOT Contract Manager Manchi Lai at the open house.

Because of this design, this new bridge is expected to be open as soon as this December.

The estimated total project cost is currently $3.4 million. Of that, just over $3 million are from Federal Bridge program funds, and about $350,000 is being paid by the City of Portland.

A display board at PBOT’s 122nd Avenue Bridge open house shows how the new span will look from above.

Impacts on Leach Botanical Garden
“We’re are very pleased that the bridge will be rebuilt this year, allowing us to reclaim our Creekside parking are much sooner,” smiled Leach Botanical Garden Executive Director David Porter.

The Garden’s summertime “English High Tea” on July 6-7 won’t be affected by the closure of the Creekside parking area, Porter said; guests will park in the Upper Meadow lot area, and will be shuttled to the Manor House patio.

“We’ve already been encouraging visitors to use the Claybourne Street parking lot, off SE 122nd Avenue, as our primary parking area; and have added an entry kiosk and markers to guide people across the meadows to the trailhead down to the Manor House,” Porter said.

Bridge construction will have a negative financial effect, because the Garden’s wedding and event rental business is primarily from July through early October. “But, PBOT is compensating us for its use of our Creekside parking as a staging area,” explained Porter.

For updates on the 122nd Avenue Bridge Project, see the official PBOT webpage: CLICK HERE.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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