Editor’s note: This project was brought to our attention by a Department of the Month submission. To be considered, e-mail a description of your project and/or department and whether high-resolution photos are available to Stephanie Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About 5,000 bridges and culverts link the communities of 679-square-mile Benton County in rural Oregon. A decade ago, county engineers determined that one structure in particular, a 50-year-old wooden bridge spanning a degraded stream, needed immediate repairs.
The Norton Creek Bridge wasn’t structurally deficient but had been on their watch list since 2002 because there were, in fact, structural concerns: spalled concrete, rotting of the treated timber deck and railing, and general erosion and scour. The bridge serves unincorporated Blodgett, a community of seasonal logging operations and organic farms, and fewer than 60 residents.
Lack of funding and design options delayed replacement. However, today the creek crossing is safe for both humans and wildlife, thanks to the county’s public works department. Fewer than 25 employees saved taxpayers more than 60% by self-performing permitting, design, and construction of a new, environmentally beneficial crossing.
The project is an excellent example of a key department philosophy: The most cost-effective way to address transportation infrastructure needs is to staff up with skilled labor and do the work in-house. Public works director Josh Wheeler believes his team’s do-it-yourself approach is a valuable model for agencies that lack the staffing resources to chase outside funding.
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