Astoria - Megler Bridge
Jon Burch Photography
Photograph - Digital Capture
The Astoria - Megler Bridge is the longest continuous steel cantilever truss bridge in North America. It spans the Columbia River between Astoria, Oregon and Point Ellice near Megler, Washington. Located 14 miles from the mouth of the river, the bridge is 4.1 miles long and was the last completed segment of U.S. Route 101 between Olympia, Washington, and Los Angeles, California.
Ferry service between Astoria and the Washington side of the Columbia River began in 1926. Later, the Oregon Department of Transportation purchased the ferry service in 1946. The ferry did not operate during inclement weather and the half-hour travel time caused traffic delays. In order to allow faster and more reliable crossings near the mouth of the river, the Astoria - Megler bridge was planned. It was built jointly by the Oregon Department of Transportation and Washington State Department of Transportation.
Construction on the structure began on November 5, 1962. Concrete piers were cast at Tongue Point, 4 miles upriver, and the steel structure was built in segments at Vancouver, Washington, 90 miles upriver, then are barged downstream where hydraulic jacks lifted them into place. On August 27, 1966, with more than 30,000 people in attendance, Governors Mark Hatfield of Oregon and Dan Evans of Washington opened the bridge by cutting a ceremonial ribbon. The cost of the project was $24 million, equivalent to $170 million today, and was paid for by tolls that were removed on December 24, 1993, more than two years early.
The bridge is 21,474 feet in length and carries one lane of traffic in each direction. The main span is closest to the Oregon side and measures 1,232 feet long. It was built to withstand 150 mile per hour wind gusts and river speeds of 9 miles per hour. According to 2004 data, about 7,100 vehicles per day use the Bridge. Designed by William Adair Bugge, construction of the cantilever truss bridge was completed by the DeLong Corporation, the American Bridge Company, and Pomeroy Gerwick.
The south end is located beside what used to be the toll plaza, at the end of a 2,130 foot long inclined ramp which goes through a 360 degree loop while gaining elevation to clear the channel over land. The north end is connects directly to State Road 401. Since most of the northern portion of the bridge is over non-navigable water, it is low to the water.
Repainting the bridge was planned for May 2009 through 2011 and budgeted at $20,000,000 to be shared by the states of Oregon and Washington. However, the four year planned paint stripping and repainting project was completed during March 2012 and December 2016.
Normally, only motor vehicles and bicycles are allowed on the bridge. However, one day a year, usually in October, the bridge is host to the Great Columbia River Crossing during which people in the event use the bridge to cross the river. The entire crossing route is 10 kilometers and participants are taken by shuttle to the Washington side from where they run or walk back to the Astoria side. Motor traffic is allowed to use only one lane and is advised to expect delays during this two hour race.
Photograph copyright 2013 Jon Burch Photography
May 14th, 2013
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