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Oregon’s annual bridge report shows another year of decline

ODOT bridge on I-5
Oregon Department of Transportation
The Oregon Department of Transportation manages nearly 2,800 bridges, including this one on Interstate 5 near Grants Pass.

Oregon’s bridges continue to decline, according to an annual report released this week by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The agency manages nearly 2,800 bridges. The number of those spans heading down on the quality ranking scale continues to outpace the number of bridges that have been replaced or upgraded.

ODOT spokesperson Katherine Benenati said it’s the tenth year in a row that’s happened.

“Over half of the bridges in service in Oregon were designed before 1970, and they just weren’t designed to carry the traffic volumes and the weights of larger vehicles that are common today,” she said.

Benenati said recent state and federal funding should help ODOT make some headway in keeping up with aging bridges. But she said drivers should expect more load restrictions and possibly closures in the years ahead.

Still, Benenati said drivers should feel confident about crossing bridges, even those that are rated in "poor" condition.

"Just because a bridge is considered 'poor,' which is something that we call 'structurally deficient,' it's not unsafe and it's not likely to collapse," she said. "And we're out there inspecting them. If the bridge was considered unsafe, we would close it."

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”