Saved!: Historic Railroad Bridge receives major Department of Transportation grant

April, 2018 Posted in Community, Nature, News

Mill City’s Historic Railroad Bridge. Courtesy Lynda Harrington


By Mary Owen

Mill City’s Save Our Bridge Committee just received an astonishing $8.1 million windfall that left most members with their eyes and mouths wide open.

“We are in a state of blissful shock,” said Lynda Harrington, chair of the ad-hoc committee. “In our four years of fundraising for this project, we never imagined a grant of this size.”

Harrington credited Danielle Gonzales, management analyst with Marion County, with taking the lead last October to secure the U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant. Also helping to secure the grant were government officials representing federal, state, city, and both Marion and Linn counties.

“The grants are extremely competitive,” Harrington said, “We thought it was a long, long shot, so we continued to apply for smaller grants.”

When Harrington moved to Mill City 14 years ago, she would walk over the railroad bridge and think “how sad, it’s covered in lichens and paint is peeling.”

“I pledged then that when I retired, I would volunteer to restore it,” she said. “In 2014, we started with a ‘dream team’ of local community leaders who had been working to do just that in time for the Centennial Celebration.”

The nine-member Save Our Bridge committee partnered with the city of Mill City to assess and restore the historic railroad trestle bridge, once used to get lumber to neighboring towns and beyond.

“We learned several months into the process that Mill City’s Historic Railroad Bridge is an historically and architecturally unique structure which motivated us to ensure that it stands for future generations to use and admire,” said Dorothy Keasey, SOB secretary.

Committee members sold T-shirts, buttons and notecards, and raised funds through special events, Go Fund Me, and major donor solicitations to raise its half of the projected $400,000 needed to replace and upgrade the support structures of the bridge. The city would step in for the other $200,000. Members hoped to finish in time for the 2019 Centennial Celebration of the bridge’s placement over the North Santiam River.

Now with grant funding, Harrington said the entire bridge – decking, railing, cleaning, painting, historical lighting, interpretive signs and updating the structural integrity of the support systems – can be completed for $2.6 million.

“The minimum amount for this grant is $5 million, so we added the North Santiam River vehicular bridge and improvements to Broadway Street to meet that minimum,” she said.

According to the US Department of Transportation, the grant also will allow for improvements to constructing street, bicycle and pedestrian pathways as well as the completion of a new transit shelter. Total project cost was given as $9.4 million, DOT reported.

“The project will enhance pedestrian safety by improving sidewalk and crosswalk designs, and will enhance critical infrastructure to access the economic center of the city,” DOT said.

North Santiam Historical Society board and Save Our Bridge committee member Frances Thomas credited community members for their support.

“We are delighted that the community has come together from the beginning with enthusiasm and support for this important project,” Thomas said. “Now this signature structure will serve the North Santiam Canyon for the next
100 years!”

Harrington and Thomas agree that restoring Mill City’s Historic Railroad Bridge will enhance civic vitality in the North Santiam Canyon as well as preserving an historic structure which provides much community enjoyment.

“It really has been the perfect alignment of stars,” Harrington said. “Local volunteers, the city, two counties and the federal government all came together in a wonderful collaborative effort.”

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