Since You Asked: We'll cross that bridge when we come to it

I often travel north on Interstate 5, and on my last trip I noticed the big new bridge across the South Umpqua River near Roseburg looks like it's finished and there's no work going on. When will this bridge open to traffic, and when it does, what will happen to the existing bridges?

— Bill D., Grants Pass

You're not going to cross the river on that bridge anytime soon, Mr. Bill.

The Oregon Department of Transportation recently fired the primary contractor, Ross Bros. & Co., after a series of delays and construction problems on the $38 million Shady Bridge project, which was originally scheduled for completion last January.

The Salem-area contractor made headlines here in Jackson County in 2006 when it failed to meet deadlines for completing a new bridge across the Rogue River at the city of Rogue River. The company also has been fined $128,000 for failure to meet deadlines for building a freeway overpass at Creswell, and the Oregon attorney general has sued the company for allegedly falsifying documents connected with a railroad bridge project in Ontario, according to the Roseburg News-Review.

Cracks were discovered in the bridge in June 2006, when Ross Bros. was already nine months behind schedule, the News-Review reported. An independent engineer hired to assess the bridge determined Ross Bros. failed to follow project documents supplied by ODOT.

ODOT spokesman Jared Castle says it's unlikely the project will be completed before August 2010.

Castle said the new bridge, which is for northbound freeway traffic, eventually will be joined by a companion southbound span that will include a pedestrian and bike bridge beneath the vehicle deck. The existing bridges will come down once the new one is finished.

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