Covered in a patchwork of various sizes and colors of protective sheets, the Willamette River Bridge project should be finished by the fall of 2022.

PHOTOS BY BRADLEY COOK/FLASHBOX STUDIO

SPRINGFIELD – Narrowed down traffic lanes, draped in cascading white sheets, with a picturesque meandering river in its backdrop, the historic bridge that connects the Glenwood district to downtown Springfield is getting a little TLC. 

By this time next year, motorists can expect to see the construction clearing on the Willamette River Bridge. The paint job and strengthening repairs are aimed to be completed by Nov. 30, 2022, according to Angela Beers Seydel, public information officer for the Oregon Department of Transportation. The project is estimated to cost $5.8 million for painting and repairs, and will be paid for by the federally-allocated State Transportation Improvement Project (STIP). 

The original construction of the Willamette River Bridge – commonly referred to as Springfield’s Main Street Bridge –  was important to the preservation and growth of both Springfield and Eugene as both cities relied heavily on crossing the Willamette in their exchange of commerce. Solid, sustainable construction would be extremely important in protecting the bridge from forces of nature – particularly the annual flooding of the Willamette River from melting snow and heavy rainfall every spring. That flooding was often devastating to the properties, orchards and bean farms in Glenwood, until the Dexter and Lookout Point Dams were completed in 1954. 

With repairs underway, maintenance was already completed before the project started to strengthen the bridge and ensure that it could support the needed containment equipment. Painting is now complete under the bridge and work is beginning above the bridge deck, Beers Seydel said. 

“Painting the bridge is done in four steps,” Beers Seydel said, which starts with removing the remaining coast with a containment structure that keeps the paint out of the river. After that, three coats of paint will be applied. 

When painting the bridge, the left lane will be closed with the right lane open. Once the left side is complete, construction will move to the right, closing down the right lane and opening the left lane, she said. 

Structural repairs continue, and the electrical work and bridge joint work will be done after painting is complete.

“In addition to painting the entire structure, work includes some steel repairs, replacing bridge deck joints, strengthening and repairing brackets under the sidewalk, and upgrading the electrical system,” she said. 

Built in 1929, repair and repainting are needed on the historic structure. The ornate entrance pylons and decorative concrete railings are signatures of the original designer, C. B. McCullough. Additionally, the distinctive construction of the bridge is the largest non-cantilever truss span in all of Oregon. It is also one of only three pre-1941 continuous truss designed bridges in the state. 

In 1985 The Main Street Bridge received designation on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. The Secretary of the Interior signed the agreement on May 2, 1985.

The completion of the Main Street Bridge repairs will blend favorably with the Franklin Boulevard upgrades now underway in Glenwood. Those upgrades are part of the first phase of the Glenwood development plans being guided by the Springfield Economic Development Agency (SEDA).

“The repairs will ensure that the bridge remains part of the state’s transportation system for years to come,” Beers Seydel said.