The bridge will connect NE 10th Avenue across Whipple Creek, closing a major gap in the area’s transportation grid
RIDGEFIELD — A major part of the plan to connect north and south Clark County, and prepare for explosive growth expected near the Fairgrounds, crossed the unofficial finish line this week.
Officials from Clark County, Ridgefield, and state legislators gathered midway across the Whipple Creek Bridge on NE 10th Avenue on Tuesday to cut the ribbon and mark the end of major construction. The contractor is still completing sidewalks, rails, and a few other things, but expects to open the bridge to traffic either late this year or in January.
“At first you’re like, ‘oh, it’s just a bridge over Whipple Creek,’” said County Manager Shawn Henessee, “and then you look down and it’s like ‘wow! That’s a considerable engineering test right there.’”
The 450-foot long bridge stands 48-feet above Whipple Creek at its center. Designed to last up to 100 years, the bridge connects NE 10th Avenue, and paves the way for a future project to expand 10th Avenue between Northeast 149th Street and Northeast 154th Street. That project is slated to begin sometime in 2020.
Official construction on the Whipple Creek Bridge began in May of 2017, but the project took at least five years to get from concept to completion.
“I was in a couple of those meetings where we thought ‘why did we do this in the first place?’” said Clark County Chair Marc Boldt. “But you really came together.”
The ribbon cutting event came shortly after the Clark County Council approved weight restrictions on seven bridges due to age concerns, so Henessee said it’s a relief to see something new being opened. It also comes as the county prepares for rapid growth at the I-5/179th Street interchange to the northeast of this area. The hope is that the completed bridge will close a gap in the transportation loop in that area.
“The idea is that next year, when the Amphitheater is sold out with concerts, that we’ve got ways to get in and out that we don’t have today,” said Councilor Julie Olson, who represents District 2 in north county. “My phone will be more quiet, I’m sure.”
The project was constructed by Cascade Bridge, a major developer responsible for a number of projects in Clark County, as well as Oregon and Idaho.
“My first project I did with Cascade Bridge, I was inside a concrete truck on Padden Expressway,” said Boldt, “so we’ve come a long ways. At least I can afford a suit now.”
Cascade Bridge General Manager Dave Mingo said he wanted to make sure media covering the opening of the bridge credited the hard-working men and women who made it happen, not some nebulous “crew.”
“It’s always these magical, mystical ‘crews’ that somehow have constructed this highway, just did this paving, or built this building,” he said. “And I always wonder about these mystical crews. Are these a bunch of elves that Santa sent us down here? Are they garden gnomes that came to life?”
The county also is working on plans for other road improvements at and near the Northeast 179th Street interchange on Interstate 5, a location where significant growth is expected in future years.