Hood River bridge construction i-84

Supervisor Jim Califf with the largest of the holes on the Interstate 84 bridge deck, about 100 yards east of exit 63.

Gnarled rebar and piles of gray rubble line the deck of the Interstate 84 bridge over the Hood River, where traffic serpentines past an unusual public works demolition project.

Carter and Company crews are working with Oregon Department of Transportation to knock into small pieces — down to dust, in fact — the 380-foot east-bound span of the freeway as it crosses the river. Part of the mostly-asphalt freeway, the concrete portion is technically a bridge and dates to the freeway construction in the 1950s.

The demolition and reconstruction of the bridge will take until Memorial Day, the contractor’s required completion date. (The west-bound lanes, requiring repair but not demolition, were completed last fall.)

Motorists traveling east between exits 63 and 64 should be aware of the need for reduced speed as traffic lanes narrow as they weave and merge at angles between temporary rows of concrete jersey barriers.

As recently as a few years ago, pieces of the freeway bridge were literally falling out, and the lanes are a patchwork of repairs ODOT contractors have done in asphalt, concrete and undetermined composite repair material. The largest hole was one three feet wide that appeared overnight about 10 years ago.

Crews will tear out the old concrete, down to the rebar, and replace it with a lighter, more durable concrete while also replacing worn rebar and metal joint pieces connecting the crosspieces to the side supports. After spending three weeks constructing an elaborate metal structure under the bridge that serves as a walkway as well as debris catcher, the crews got started last week busting up the one-by-three foot concrete rail on the east side of the bridge. Demolition was scheduled to continue this week on the bridge deck itself. Carter and Company Supervisor Jim Califf said the deck will be removed piece by piece after being marked off in a grid and an industrial-strength augur with pincers will poke holes in the sections and cut the rebar.

To remove the guardrail last week, crews worked in 10-foot sections, first fitting a dark gray heavyweight bib under the bridge, so that any debris falls into the bib which then funnels the material to a tarpaulin. The tarp was fitted with cords that, once the tarp is full, draws up and encloses it, making it look like a six-foot-wide kitchen garbage bag, but with a half-ton load. The tarpaulin with its load of concrete, once gathered, is lifted by forklift onto the decking above.

The debris is placed on a truck or spread out and crunched into smaller pieces by heavy equipment, bound up, and trucked away to concrete and metal recyclers.

After a section of the railing has been crushed and removed, small pieces and the concrete dust are shoveled up and then brushed away and removed. Califf said the goal is to keep even some of the concrete dust from falling into the river.