Bridge work in Hood River

Workers inspect the lift span cables looking down on the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge. 

In response to the rise in COVID cases throughout the Gorge, the Port of Hood River met virtually on August 24. Conversations centered around planned repairs and testing of the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge and changes at the Ken Jernstedt Airfield. Engineers gave updates on the planning for replacement of lift span’s deteriorating wire ropes and live load testing related to the lowered weight limit imposed in March. Considerably far along on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Project Director Kevin Greenwood expects the final draft to be presented sometime early next year, after he announced a delay for the final EIS.

“This delay – identified as a risk item in past reports – is a result of increased comments and feedback on the archaeological survey report,” said Greenwood in an email to the Bi-State Working Group (BSWG).

For all large construction projects, involving federal funding or significant permitting activity, the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) requires an environmental impact study. The project owners must demonstrate how the construction and final product will affect the environment along with mitigation procedures for impacted areas and groups.

In September of 2020, the port entered an agreement with engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE) to analyze the bridge lift span’s mechanical and electrical systems. According to a commission memo, WJE concluded that the lift span ropes should be replaced within the next two years. WJE engineer Paul Bandlow has been in contact with two companies who are able to deliver the necessary materials within that time frame. One company set an estimated delivery time at 14-16 weeks, while the other offered a much less desirable 45-week wait time. The commission approved the contract with WJE so the engineers will begin developing the scope of work and deciding the best approach to replace the ropes.

HDR Engineer, Mark Libby provided additional insight into the planned live load testing for related to the lowered load rating imposed by ODOT in March. The live load testing is expected to help to determine whether the limits can be lifted and characterize any strengthening and repair work needed to restore the original 80,000 lb. weight limit. Commissioner Mike Fox voiced his concerns about the cost of the project, estimated at $235,693.

“We’re spending a quarter of a million dollars, with no competitive bids,” said Fox. “I’ve got a problem with that.”

The commission voted to move forward with the contract agreement and live load testing. Port Director Michael McElwee said testing is scheduled for October.

The port is set to hire a new engineering firm for purposes of facility upgrades and other projects at the Ken Jernstedt Airfield. Century West Engineering is still under contract, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires “re-solicitation” every five years to encourage competition. Century West and Precision Approach Engineering, Inc. submitted Statements of Qualifications, and their proposal were reviewed by a selection committee comprised of port and airfield representatives. That committee recommended award of contract to Precision Approach Engineering. Commissioner Fox requested approval of the contract be tabled for clarification from Commissioner Hoby Streich on the selection process. The port held a special meeting on Friday, August 27, chaired by Commissioner Streich that resulted in approval of the contract.