Heat waves show bridge joints are functioning well

ROGUE RIVER — The summer's series of triple-digit heat waves has helped resolve a construction concern at the problem-plagued Depot Street Bridge project, Oregon Department of Transportation officials say.

ODOT's concerns that the expansion joint at the north end of the $14.5 million bridge appeared to be "out of tolerance" have been laid to rest, said Jackson County Engineer Mike Kuntz.

"It's fine," said Kuntz. "The joint performed at an acceptable level of tolerance."

The 300-foot tied-arch concrete bridge spans the Rogue River and expands and contracts with changes in temperature. The expansion joint is designed to absorb the bridge's changes in length, he said.

ODOT had no fears about the 5,500-ton bridge's structural stability, but became concerned about maintenance issues after its crews said the joint, when expanded, was not far enough apart when checked earlier this year. The joint's failure to expand and contract within acceptable levels would have meant it had to be removed and replaced, Kuntz said.

But Ken Stoneman, director of construction and engineering at David Evans and Associates, allayed ODOT's concerns. Stoneman had his crews take precise measurements for the past several months. The engineer has assured ODOT that his calculations prove the joint has responded to the summer's extreme heat well, Kuntz said.

This is good news for those who must commute over the bridge. The fix would have required crews to chip out the edge of the bridge and install steel plates so the new concrete could cure. The repair would undoubtedly have created traffic problems, Kuntz said.

"Now we're not going to have to tear up that end of the bridge and inconvenience people," said Kuntz. "Nobody would have liked that."

The joint problem came to light shortly after the contractor, Steven M. Ross of Ross Bros. Construction Inc., of Brooks, was banned from working on the bridge or any future jobs involving public funds in Oregon as part of a settlement with the Oregon Department of Justice.

The action, part of an agreement reached over civil racketeering charges filed against Ross by the state, applies to all four of Ross's construction companies. The injunction states all parties specifically deny any wrongdoing, said DOJ spokesperson Tony Green.

The agreement allows Ross' successors and family to create a new corporation to engage in public works contracting. Legacy Contracting Inc., of Eugene, a successor company to Ross Bros., is completing the bridge's final to-do list, Kuntz said.

Legacy is owned and operated by sons and former employees of Steven M. Ross. Legacy crews have been recasting sidewalks and installing new logos at the pedestrian bulb-outs on either side of Depot Street Bridge, Kuntz said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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