Our modern road system has become an integral part of everyday life. Interstate highways take us just about anywhere we want to go and are a vital part of the distribution system that keeps our economy healthy.
So it was alarming to the public and freight haulers alike when in the course of regular bridge inspections in 2001, ODOT discovered that the state's bridges were weakening and many required immediate weight restrictions, detours and emergency repairs.
Two small towns in southern Oregon highlighted the seriousness of the aging bridges. In March 2001, Ford's Bridge over the South Umpqua River on Interstate 5 was declared unsafe and in need of emergency repairs. The resulting detour sent large volumes of traffic - especially truck traffic - through Canyonville and Riddle, whose streets were not designed for such wide and heavy loads, for 20 days, causing delays and disruption.
The bridge program was the Oregon Legislature's response to such situations. Since 2003 the program has repaired or replaced 271 bridges, including 19 that were weight-restricted. Oregon's proactive approach to update its aging highway bridges will help to support the state's growing economy for decades into the future.