By Stephen Floyd
Marion County is nearing the construction phase of replacing the Pudding River Bridge on Hazelgreen Road NE and has begun discussing follow-up work to address road flooding.
The project would replace the current wooden bridge, built in 1969, with a concrete structure above flood levels, as the Little Pudding River inundates the current bridge during heavy rain.
The new bridge would also be wider, allowing safer vehicle traffic and access by pedestrians and bicyclists. The estimated cost of the project is $6.8 million, with around $5 million funded by a federal transportation grant and the rest coming from the county.
The road around the bridge would not be raised and would remain susceptible to seasonal floods. The board of county commissioners took up this problem during its Oct. 25 meeting to explore potential solutions.
Marion County Public Works Director Brian Nicholas told the board that flood improvements could be costly and complicated due to environmental laws around fill dirt and other ground disturbances in floodplains. He said many of these rules could be circumvented by instead extending the bridge into a causeway, but the extension would need to be long and may cost between $15 – 20 million.
He also said potential road improvements could be many years away as the county already has numerous public works projects on its plate.
Commissioners asked Nichols to have his department prepare a report of possible flood mitigation solutions near the bridge and projected costs.
Commissioner Danielle Bethell said she believed it would be worth the effort to find a long-term solution to the flooding because of population growth in Silverton. Officials noted Hazelgreen Road NE is the most direct route between Silverton and I-5 for freight shipments, and between Silverton and Keizer for commuters.
“There’s apartment complexes coming online [in Silverton], they’re looking at putting in an entire development near The Oregon Garden,” said Bethell. “… We have to be diligent about transportation and proper access.”
Commissioners also approved a contract extension with David Evans and Associates, which handled the design phase, so it can take on administrative services for the construction phase.
Because of the federal grant, there are more stringent requirements for documentation and environmental management. The county does not have staffing for this due to other projects.
Commissioners approved the extension at an increased expense of $415,000.
The contract extension was one of the final steps needed to send the project out for bids, said Ryan Crowther, county capital projects manager. He said they plan to solicit bids for construction this winter and hopefully select a bidder in time for them to start acquiring materials in the spring.
Construction is expected to last from summer of 2024 to spring of 2025. It will close Hazelgreen Road NE between Howell Prairie Road NE and Brush Creek Road NE.
A similar bridge replacement on Silverton Road NE closed traffic from May 2021 to January 2022 – three months longer than expected due to unforeseen delays.