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Yaquina Bay Bridge FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

 

The Yaquina Bay Bridge opened in 1936 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Bridge construction originally cost $1.3 million dollars and was funded by the Federal Public Works Administration.  The project provided jobs for 220 people during the Great Depression.  Designer Conde McCullough is known for a series of famous bridges on the Oregon Coast.   

 

What is the current condition of the Yaquina Bay Bridge? 

The bridge safely accommodates an average daily traffic of 16,500 vehicles per day and over 20,000 vehicles per day during peak summer periods.
 
The bridge has been classified as “structurally deficient.”  To assure decades of additional usable life, ODOT made the decision to implement “weight restrictions” on the bridge beginning March 1, 2013.  Heavy haul trucks are now required to use traffic control at both ends of the bridge and proceed across straddling the center line. Traffic delays are typically 5 to 10 minutes.  Approximately 200 heavy haul trucks are affected by the weight restriction annually.  There are 44 weight-restricted bridges on Oregon highways.
 
For more information about bridge restrictions, go to:
 
 

What does “Structurally Deficient” mean?

 
“Structurally Deficient” is a measure used by the Federal Highway Administration to indicate deteriorated physical condition of the bridge’s structural elements (primarily deck, superstructure and substructure) and reduced load capacity. This rating generally signifies that a major rehabilitation project will be required to keep the bridge in service.  
 

How many other bridges in the state are Structurally Deficient?

 
As of 2012, Oregon has 2,706 state bridges; 3 percent of them are structurally deficient. This means that 89 bridges do not conform to standards enacted after the bridge was built.
 

Are these bridges safe?

 
Structurally deficient does not necessarily mean unsafe. A shoe with a damaged heel is still wearable and a house that needs a new roof can still be lived in.  Both would fit the definition of “structural deficiency”, but neither is necessarily unsafe.  If a bridge is unsafe, ODOT closes it to travel.   
 

Can the historic bridge be upgraded structurally?

 
Yes, it certainly can.  Work has already been done to protect and maintain the bridge, including replacement of rusted steel, protective paint, and cathodic protection, a process used for corrosion prevention.
 

Has the bridge been seismically retrofitted?

 
No. The cost of structural reinforcement is significant and funding to provide additional reinforcement for the columns, peers and foundations is not currently available.  Reinforcement has been added to the roadway. 
 

Is it time to think about building a new bridge?    

 
Perhaps – but many questions must be answered before that decision can be made.  Vehicular capacity on the existing bridge is currently constrained and expected to worsen over time.  The ability to seismically retrofit the existing bridge is limited, and it will be very expensive to upgrade the bridge to a condition that would allow the load limitations to be removed. 
 
Some of the questions that currently remain unanswered include:
 
·         whether a new bridge is operationally preferable and more cost effective than a significant upgrade of the existing historic bridge;
·         whether major upgrades or a new structure (or both) could be funded and, if so, how they would be funded;
·         where a new bridge might be located and how it would operate, and
·         what can be done to manage the existing bridge in the absence of a new or significantly upgraded bridge.
 
These are questions that ODOT, the City of Newport, and Lincoln County have begun to address in a systematic way.  The development of a new transportation model is underway.  The model will support preparation of a Transportation System Plan (TSP).
 

 How would a decision to build a new bridge be made?  Who would make the decision?

 
Any decision regarding a new bridge must include public participation.  The first step is typically the development of a Transportation System Plan (TSP) which evaluates the need for a new bridge and identifies locations, designs, benefits, constraints, cost estimates, public support and feasibility. 
 
If feasible concepts with strong public support can be identified, the concepts would advance to a full environmental review.  This will produce information required by the National Environmental Policy ACT (NEPA) and make approval from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) possible, so that federal funds can be used for bridge construction.
 
Ultimately, the decision to build a new bridge would be made by the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC), based on a NEPA approval, strong public support, and available funding for the project.
 

Where would a new bridge be located?

 
There has been no determination about if or where a new bridge could be successfully constructed.  There are a number of considerations, including:
 
·         Will it be necessary to locate a new bridge some distance from the existing historic bridge, to preserve its visual integrity?
·         Can a new “companion” bridge be constructed immediately parallel to the existing historic bridge as part of a major upgrade to the existing bridge?
·         Can the existing historic bridge be replaced?
·         How close to the existing bridge/US 101 Highway corridor must a new bridge be in order to pull sufficient traffic away from the existing bridge?
·         Will the benefits provided by a new bridge be worth the potential cost?
 
A final decision that considers the impacts, benefits, and costs of a new bridge or upgrades to the historic bridge (or some combination of both) would be made during the NEPA process.  
 

If a new bridge is built, what would happen to the existing historic bridge?

 
Again, no decision has been made.  This question would be addressed during the NEPA process, and would include public input. Some options might include retaining the existing bridge to serve as two lanes of one way traffic or to use it for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
 

How much would a new bridge cost?

 
Cost depends on a number of significant factors.  The total cost for a new bridge structure includes not only construction, but also NEPA documentation, public participation, acquisition of right-of-way, bridge design and location.  Other contingencies – including possible legal challenges and inflation on the cost of materials - must be considered as well.    
 
A full replacement, four-lane structure designed to be architecturally similar to a historic McCullough bridge would carry a much higher price tag compared to a low-profile, parallel two-lane bridge.  A new bridge further up Yaquina Bay would likely be a much longer and more expensive structure.  Right-of-way costs associated with connecting a new bridge to the rest of the roadway system can also vary greatly, depending on how many properties are impacted.
 
As a result, a cost estimate for a new or significantly upgraded Yaquina Bay Bridge is impossible to determine at this time, but it is safe to say that the cost would easily run into the hundreds of millions.  Recent cost estimates developed through a NEPA process for a new bridge over the Willamette River in Salem have ranged from $350M to $700M.
 

How would a new bridge be funded?

 
There is no designated source of funding for a new bridge at this time.  Existing funding sources, such as gas tax and registration fees, are insufficient for such a large project and are increasingly used for maintaining the existing transportation system.  The larger projects that have been developed over the last decade or so have primarily been funded through special legislative actions like the Oregon Transportation Investment ACT (OTIA) and the Jobs and Transportation Act (JTA).  These Acts have identified specific projects for construction and provided funding for them largely through bonding paid for by future gas tax revenues.
 
Tolling is another possible funding source.  The ability to collect tolls could match and/or leverage funding from other sources.  Acceptance of tolling can also demonstrate local support for a project.  But tolling in Oregon is very controversial and there is no assurance that this approach would be acceptable.
 
Large transportation projects are typically the result of local initiative.  Success usually requires the development of coalition of local, regional, and state-level interests who actively seek funding at all levels of government and even from the private sector.  Developing a coalition to advocate and gain funding for construction of a project as large as a new or significantly upgraded Yaquina Bay Bridge is a process that can take decades. 
 

How long will it take for a new bridge to be built? And why?

 
Addressing the Yaquina Bay Bridge issue will most likely take more than a decade, if few problems are encountered.  The reasons include the need to:
 
(1)      meet all requirements to qualify for federal funds - including public support for a specific solution and NEPA document approval,
(2)      complete all preconstruction phases - including bridge design and acquisition of property for right-of-way, and
(3)      secure adequate funding.
 
If significant limitations - such as strong public opposition or extremely high costs relative to project benefits – are identified during the NEPA process, the result could be a “no-build” decision.
 

What does the timeline for a new bridge project look like?

 
Any large transportation project has many phases, including the following:
 
Transportation System Planning (2 to 3 years):  The first step is to determine the purpose and need of the project at the local and state level, including evaluation of potential project alternatives. Development of a transportation system model for the City of Newport is currently underway.  This model will be used to identify and test the operational feasibility and public acceptability of potential bridge improvements or new bridge alternatives.  When the model is completed, the City’s Transportation System Plan (TSP) can be updated to include an analysis of future conditions and the need for an upgraded or new bridge.  This process will determine which alternatives have fatal flaws. The TSP will also provide an initial evaluation of possible costs and potential funding sources for any alternatives that are advanced into the Project Planning (NEPA) process.
 
Project Planning (NEPA documentation) (5 to 10 years): In order to use any federal money for bridge construction, the federal government will require development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) consistent with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).  The EIS would include:
·         Evaluation of one or more bridge project designs, including type, size, cost  and location;
·         Assessment of the historic, economic, environmental, social, cultural and other potential impacts of the project;
·         Public participation and comment;
·         Adoption of City and County policies and ordinances needed to support the proposed project; and
·         Approval by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
 
Right-Of-Way (ROW) Acquisition (2 to 4 years): properties must be purchased in order to create necessary site for new construction. This work cannot begin until the EIS is approved by FHWA.
 
Project Preliminary and Final Design (3 to 4 Years): Bridge type, size and location will be decided during the NEPA review process. Additional design work will be needed prior to construction.  Construction must meet all federal and state standards, including earthquake resistance.  This work can, to a degree, run in parallel to the ROW acquisition process.
 
Securing Adequate Funding (??? Years – Highly Variable): Before proceeding towards actual project development, there must be reasonable certainty that the project can be funded. The timeline to secure funding is unknown, largely because it will depend on legislative and/or congressional action.
 
Construction Phase (4 to 5 years):  Actual construction time can vary greatly depending on the design and location of the new bridge.
 

What will happen if the historic YBB Bridge were suddenly unable to be used due to an incident or natural disaster?

 
If the bridge should be rendered unusable or collapse, due to a catastrophic event such as an earthquake, replacement of the existing bridge in its current location would likely become a high state and federal priority.  Some of the processes and timelines for meeting Federal requirements may be reduced and additional sources of funding – such as emergency assistance – might also become available.