The ins and outs of the Van Buren Bridge construction

Crossing of the Willamette River on January 23, 2024 on the new bridge coming from Corvallis on Van Buren Street. The bridge is under construction and will include a walking and biking path.
Crossing of the Willamette River on January 23, 2024 on the new bridge coming from Corvallis on Van Buren Street. The bridge is under construction and will include a walking and biking path.

VAN BUREN BRIDGE: Incorrect information about the status of the Van Buren Bridge was included in the original version of this article posted Feb. 6. The Van Buren Bridge is being torn down and rebuilt. The Barometer regrets the error.

Bridge infrastructure can only last so long.

Cracks form under the tons of weight of semi-trucks and other automobiles, and such a time has come for the Van Buren Bridge in northwest Corvallis, which leads into downtown off of the OR-34 highway.

The bridge was determined seismically unsafe and is being torn down and rebuilt and likely finished by early summer 2025, according to Mindy McCartt, public information officer for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Before building the new Van Buren Bridge, a new temporary bridge was constructed which has zero weight restrictions, unlike the preexisting Van Buren Bridge. McCartt said the existing Van Buren Bridge wasn’t able to even support a firetruck. 

“There were huge weight restrictions on the old bridge because it was really old, so even a fully loaded fire truck with all of its water, could not drive over the old Van Buren Bridge. It had to empty its tanks before,” McCartt said. 

The initial Van Buren Bridge dated back to 1913 when it was first built by the Coast Bridge Company. According to the ODOT website, re-considering the bridge’s seismic preparedness goes all the way back to 1979, when an Environmental Impact Statement was done to consider another route for traffic to bypass the central business area of Corvallis.

It wasn’t until 2004, however, that options to reconstruct the bridge emerged and in 2005, an Environmental Baseline Report was finished to help figure out requirements for the new Van Buren Bridge, in addition to a Bridge and Roadway Alternatives Report which was used to study design options for “locating a new Van Buren Bridge.”

Fast forward to construction; a design firm was contracted and the project kicked off in 2019 with the contract for the construction awarded to Hamilton Construction. 

In a document provided by McCartt in September of 2023, two bridges are to be built in addition to the reconstructed bridge; a construction bridge used by the contractor and construction team to build the new bridge and a traffic bridge.

The same document states the new bridge will include two eastbound lanes, a designated bike lane and a protected bicycle and pedestrian path. 

Jenna Berman, Transportation Liaison for ODOT, said a large team at ODOT was involved in reviewing designs but a different consultant team was hired to draft them.

“We actually had consultants, I know that sounds kinda crazy but that’s how big the whole thing was, hired to design it but then they bring the sets of plans to our team and then our sign person will review signs and then our striping person reviews that,” Berman said. 

Berman also said a lot of time was spent with engineers at ODOT in the region and at the state level to talk about ADA and bicycle/pedestrian design.

McCartt said the Van Buren Bridge will be considered officially done once traffic is on the new bridge, and there will still be an additional time frame to take down the temporary construction bridge and the temporary vehicle bridge.  

“Early summer of 2025 is when we hope to have traffic on the new bridge. The bridge being done in our minds is when traffic is using it. Then it will probably be another year to not only take down the old bridges (the temporary construction bridge and temporary vehicle bridge) and restore the site,” McCartt said. 

The finishing touches will be done in order to make it look like all involved were never at the site and that includes clean up and restoration. 

“That means planting, then painting, and making it look like we were pretty much never there and that probably will go through 2026,” McCartt said.

An east-facing rendering of the finished Van Buren Bridge. Provided by ODOT.
A birds-eye rendering of the Van Buren Bridge project. Provided by ODOT.
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