Uh Oh. A Bridge Too Far.
July 13, 2021
My rest day in Tualatin. I decided to see what’s coming up on my journey. Well, there apparently is 4 miles of US 101 that I won’t be driving.
The Astoria–Megler Bridge is a steel cantilever through truss bridge in the northwest United States that spans the lower Columbia River, between Astoria, Oregon, and Point Ellice near Megler, Washington. Opened 55 years ago in 1966, it is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America.
The bridge is 14 miles (23 km) from the mouth of the river at the Pacific Ocean. The bridge is 4.067 miles (6.55 km) in length, and was the final segment of U.S. Route 101 to be completed between Olympia, Washington, and Los Angeles, California.
Ferry service between Astoria and the Washington side of the Columbia River began in 1926. The Oregon Department of Transportation purchased the ferry service in 1946. This ferry service did not operate during inclement weather and the half-hour travel time caused delays. In order to allow faster and more reliable crossings near the mouth of the river, a bridge was planned. The bridge was built jointly by the Oregon Department of Transportation and Washington State Department of Transportation.
Construction on the structure began on November 5, 1962, and the concrete piers were cast at Tongue Point, four miles (6.5 km) upriver. The steel structure was built in segments at Vancouver, Washington, 90 miles upriver, then barged downstream where hydraulic jacks lifted them into place. The bridge opened to traffic on July 29, 1966, marking the completion of U.S. Route 101 and becoming the seventh major bridge built by Oregon in the 1950s–1960s; ferry service ended the night before. On August 27, 1966, Governors Mark Hatfield of Oregon and Dan Evans of Washington dedicated the bridge by cutting a ceremonial ribbon. The four-day ceremony was celebrated by 30,000 attendees who participated in parades, drives, and a marathon boat race from Portland to Astoria. The cost of the project was $24 million, equivalent to $147 million in 2019 dollars, and was paid for by tolls that were removed on December 24, 1993, more than two years early.
Looking west over Astoria in 1986
The bridge is 21,474 feet in length and carries one lane of traffic in each direction. The cantilever-span section, which is closest to the Oregon side, is 2,468 feet and its main (central) span measures 1,233 feet (376 m). It was built to withstand 150 mph (240 km/h) wind gusts and river water speeds of 9 mph (14 km/h). As of 2004, an average of 7,100 vehicles per day used the Astoria–Megler Bridge. Designed by William Adair Bugge(1900–1992), construction of the cantilever truss bridge was completed by the DeLong Corporation, the American Bridge Company, and Pomeroy Gerwick.
The south end is at 46.187°N 123.854°Wbeside what used to be the toll plaza, at the end of a 2,130-foot (650 m) inclined ramp which goes through a full 360° loop while gaining elevation over land to provide almost 200 feet (61 m) of clearance over the shipping channel. The north end is at 46.241°N 123.875°W and connects directly to SR 401. Since most of the northern portion of the bridge is over shallow, non-navigable water, it is low to the water.
Repainting the bridge was planned for May 2009 through 2011 and budgeted at $20 million, to be shared by the states of Oregon and Washington. A four-year planned paint stripping and repainting project was planned for March 2012 through December 2016.