County approves weight restrictions on seven bridges

More restrictions could be coming as the county continues inspections on 60 more aging bridges

CLARK COUNTY — Of the 78 public bridges maintained by Clark County, the vast majority are nearing a critical stage in their lifespan.

“Many of them are aged well past the anticipated design life,” said Carolyn Heniges, Road Maintenance and Safety Division manager with Clark County Public Works at this week’s council meeting. “We have 60 percent that are in this 50-75 year range.”

The Cougar Creek Bridge in Washougal, built in 2012, is one of Clark County’s newest bridges. Photo courtesy Clark County Public Works
The Cougar Creek Bridge in Washougal, built in 2012, is one of Clark County’s newest bridges. Photo courtesy Clark County Public Works

That situation brought up the issue of weight restrictions this week at county council, as public works sought to reduce heavy traffic on seven bridges.

“We are getting a lot heavier loads and a lot more loads as we try to move materials around the unincorporated area,” Heniges told the council.

The county hired an engineering firm to look at eight of the older bridges, and they determined that seven of those should have weight restrictions implemented. Sixty other bridges are also due for inspections, so Heniges said they could return to council over the next year seeking restrictions on more bridges.

Outgoing council Chair Marc Boldt, who was a commercial truck driver prior to his time in office, said he had taken a look at a number of bridges himself. While they might generally look in good shape, the inspections aren’t interested just with appearances.

“They go back to the drawings when the bridge was made, so they know what kind of rebar was used in there,” said Boldt. “The regular person could look at the bridge and say ‘what’s the deal?’ but when you look at the schematic drawing of the bridge when it was designed fifty years ago you realize there’s a lot that you don’t see.”

“This really puts an exclamation point on aging infrastructure and how we pay for what’s happening to our roads,” said Boldt.

Read the county’s 2017 bridge report here:

https://www.clark.wa.gov/sites/default/files/dept/files/public-works/BridgeReport.pdf

One of the concerns will be how this impacts things like waste collection, and emergency response for fire crews or heavier police vehicles. Heniges said it could be several months before all the weight restriction signs can be designed, made and posted, so in the meantime they’ll be working with trucking companies, as well as law enforcement and emergency dispatchers to help them understand any impact the weight restrictions could have.

Ultimately, the county hopes the restrictions will only be temporary as they seek grants and other funding to upgrade existing bridges to bring them up to code. Currently, the only new bridge in the county’s six-year Transportation Improvement Plan is the 10th Avenue Bridge over Whipple Creek, which is set to open sometime in the next few weeks.

The list of bridges that will have weight restrictions implemented is as follows:

  • Gibbons Creek Bridge (SE Evergreen Way over Gibbons Creek)
  • Rock Creek Bridge (NE Rock Creek Road over Rock Creek)
  • Matney Bridge (NE 68th Street over Matney Creek)
  • Morgan Bridge (NE 182nd Avenue over Morgan Creek)
  • Venersborg Bridge (NE 209th Street over Salmon Creek)
  • Landon Bridge (NE CC Landon Road over Yacolt Creek)
  • Unnamed Bridge (NE 167th Avenue over Mud Creek)

The weight restrictions will vary by bridge, and will be posted online and communicated to affected businesses as soon as possible.

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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