Rock Point Bridge reopens

GOLD HILL — One lane of the historic Rock Point Bridge reopened Thursday in time for the Memorial Day weekend and to help area businesses that rely on summer tourism, the Oregon Department of Transportation said.

"It's great news," said Jolee Wallace, one of the owners of nearby Del Rio Vineyards.

Visits to the tasting room and store at the vineyard had dwindled since the bridge that links the business to Interstate 5 closed in September.

A single lane is open on the bridge, which spans the Rogue River northwest of Gold Hill, ODOT said. The one-way configuration provides access for drivers traveling east from Interstate 5 exit 43.

"If they can keep it open like this all summer, it will be great for us," Wallace said.

The bridge was closed last fall for a $3.9 million rehabilitation project to repair the damaged deck and side rails as well as cracked concrete beneath the bridge. Designed by Conde McCullough, who created many of Oregon's graceful early highway bridges, the narrow two-lane bridge built in 1920 is structurally safe, but was considered "functionally obsolete" and "in serious need of repair," ODOT officials said.

Officials expected contractor Wildish Standard Paving, of Eugene, to have the work done by Memorial Day, but unforeseen delays related to incomplete drawings from 1920 and worse-than-expected deterioration from age put the project behind schedule and over budget.

The project won't be done until fall, when another eight-week closure is set for a final round of work, including refurbishing the entire bridge deck and paving the bridge approaches. That closure is set to start after Labor Day. Work on the westbound lanes will continue through the summer.

ODOT chose to open a single lane of traffic in time for summer, acknowledging that Del Rio and other area businesses depend on business from travelers. Transportation officials delivered detour maps to local businesses and placed detour signs to help drivers return to I-5 using either exit 40 or 45.

"It's easy to get back on the freeway," Wallace said.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 541-776-4485, or e-mail

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