Weight restriction ends on Bridge of the Gods

Structural issues forced limits in July; repair work followed

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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State and local officials lifted a severe weight restriction on the Bridge of the Gods on Tuesday, allowing freight to freely move across the span for the first time in months.

Capacity on the 87-year-old span had been limited since July, after an inspection found some structural weaknesses. The Oregon Department of Transportation announced then that the weight limit on the bridge would be reduced from 80,000 pounds to 16,000 pounds.

As of Tuesday, the bridge is back up to its full 80,000-pound capacity, according to Port of Cascade Locks, Ore., which owns the bridge.

The earlier restriction precluded just about any tractor-trailer from crossing the bridge, plus other large vehicles such as tour buses. The Bridge of the Gods spans the Columbia River between Stevenson and Cascade Locks, and finding another route across the river meant long detours. The next-closest options were the Hood River Bridge to the east and Interstate 205 to the west.

The change strained nearby ports and businesses, including the Port of Skamania County. The weight restriction forced trucks to use long stretches of state Highway 14 in Washington instead of Interstate 84 in Oregon.

Repair work focused on two primary areas of concern: "gusset plates," which hold load-bearing beams together on the bridge, and "stringers," the steel support beams that run under the deck of the bridge. The Port of Cascade Locks coordinated the fix with ODOT using more than $1 million in local, state and federal funds.

Leaders had hoped to have the bridge back to its full capacity by the end of the year.

"It's actually gone fast. It could have been a lot longer if we hadn't gotten funding," said Kristi Bengtson, executive assistant at the Port of Cascade Locks.

Crews were removing weight restriction signs around the bridge on Tuesday, Bengtson said.

Additional construction will resume in January as crews replace clips on the bridge, according to the port. That work is expected to wrap up in February, Bengtson said.