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Reusable I-5 bridge beams live on in projects across Oregon
In the market for bridge beams 93 to 115 feet long and don’t know where to turn? Call ODOT, of course!
When ODOT realized it had more than 200 concrete and steel beams available for reuse, the agency offered the salvaged beams to other ODOT and local projects, and more than 30 respondents indicated interest.
The beams made up the temporary Interstate 5 detour bridge that was demolished to make way for the new $201 million I-5 Willamette River Bridge in Eugene and Springfield that is being erected as part of the OTIA III State Bridge Delivery Program.  Though the temporary bridge was permitted for only 10 years, the materials used to construct it — particularly the steel and concrete beams — can safely serve motorists for decades to come.  ODOT offered a cut rate deal: A new beam could cost more than $17,000, yet purchasers paid just $2,500.
“ODOT’s primary motivation is to get the beams reused, so we essentially cut the price to what it would cost to move and store them,” said Bert Hartman, ODOT Bridge Unit manager. “For the end users, it’s a really good deal.”
Six of the temporary bridge’s steel beams will be given a second life in an ODOT bridge near Silverton, more than 80 miles away. The original Butte Creek Bridge, built in 1931, needs to be replaced because of load restrictions.
All of the new bridge’s beams will come from the Willamette River Bridge’s temporary structure, making the project both sustainable and cost effective. Not only is ODOT recycling perfectly good construction material, but it’s also saving money compared with the cost of new steel beams.
The Willamette River Bridge team had first choice of the beams, claiming 50 before others were invited to use them. The project site is flanked by two popular parks: the Whilamut Natural Area and Alton Baker Park. Many cyclists, walkers, and runners in Eugene and Springfield benefit from the existing paths that pass under and around the new I-5 bridges. To make the system of trails safer and more convenient, the project team will build a new bicycle viaduct using the 50 beams. It will open in 2014 when the new Willamette River Bridge is complete.
Reuse of bridge teams is consistent with ODOT’s sustainability efforts, which seek to minimize the department’s use of new materials through reuse and recycling.  Because the majority of the beams from the Willamette River temporary bridge are being reused, a huge amount of debris is being kept out of landfills and tons of raw materials are not being mined or forged to create new beams. End users are also reaping great savings: the 224 beams being reused on other projects will save their owners a combined $3.25 million. This approach was a huge success in giving the beams a second life while spreading economic and environmental benefits to other projects.