Bridge replacement process revived
Since February, the Port of Hood River Commission and staff have focused intently on possible funding options for replacement of the Hood River/White Salmon Interstate Bridge. The Commission convened a series of monthly work sessions to deliberate various alternatives in order to formulate plans and processes with the lofty goals of securing political support, regulatory approvals and funding commitments to construct a new bridge by 2025.
Formulation of bridge replacement strategies includes consideration of a myriad of financial, political and technical components. With the help of consultants Steve Siegel, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and Thorn Run Partners, the Commission reviewed several options for development, ownership, and management of a new bridge, as well as feasibility for financing options.
Some major assumptions were agreed upon in deliberations:
A new bridge is estimated to cost around $300 million (includes removal costs of existing bridge).
Bridge tolls would likely increase.
Safe operations and maintenance of current bridge required until replacement commitments are certain.
The Port of Hood River plans to pursue advocacy efforts, planning tasks, and financing options to gain momentum in efforts over the next year as it continues to affirm goals, assumptions, and timelines.
Lower Mill manufacturing lots available soon
With utilities work complete, lots at Lower Mill Industrial Site are expected to be available for sale this fall as planned. Site preparation completed in spring made way for utility work by Beam Excavating, which concluded in August. Vista GeoEnvironmental was the engineer on the project. NW Natural Gas Company installed gas lines, and Crystal Springs Water District and Odell Sanitation District signed off on project completion. Utilities work, including engineering, cost $260,000.
Three industrial lots will be available for sale, ranging in size from 1.9 to 4.76 acres. “This new industrial park is well-suited to businesses involved in manufacturing and production,” described Anne Medenbach, Property & Development Manager for the Port. Medenbach relayed that the north lot will be available at a later date, due to soil removal and wetland mitigation activities. Clean mulch (non-structural fill) onsite is currently available to the public at no charge. For more information, contact Anne Medenbach at 541-386-5116.
Waterfront development update
Progress continues on the redevelopment of the former Expo property, with three buildings planned by Key Development. Two are designed for a commercially-zoned parcel, and one building plan is intended for The Tofurky Company on the Light Industrial parcel. Building plans for the Tofurky building are undergoing modification to serve general LI needs as the vegan food company anticipates rapid growth over the next several years. Key Development informed the Port of changes required to its initial agreement, and that the altered design would utilize the same basic footprint as previously approved. Construction on that parcel is scheduled for next spring.
Sheppard’s building progresses
According to Ben Sheppard, the Sheppard’s waterfront building is on schedule for an early spring completion. The structure of the metal building is up as well as the masonry for the store building. A six-week framing window commenced late August for the main store and roof of the metal building. The Sheppards hope to have the structure closed in by November in advance of fall weather.
New Bridge signage planned
DKS Associates completed a bridge signage needs assessment that inventoried existing Bridge signage, identified key issues, and offered recommendations for bringing signage up to current standards. DKS is now preparing a Signage Master Plan and will lead implementation of the plan with Commission approval.
The highest priorities recognized were improved communication of the Bridge’s narrow lanes and weight limits, with advance notification signage so vehicles can more easily reroute. The weight limit enforcement is an important issue due to the age and condition of the bridge, and concerns that overweight trucks and vehicles traveling over the allowed speed limits are accelerating its degradation. Additionally, the Port desires the ability to display signage for episodic events that require temporary traffic control such as lift span notifications, routine bridge maintenance, lane closures, traffic congestion, and highway closures. Speed limit signs and simpler, more clear toll information signs were also recommended.
The needs assessment advocates reducing the number of redundant signs and non-standard signs on the bridge and approaches. A new signage plan would specify standard designs that meet national and state requirements.
Record attendance at Hood River Fly-In
The annual Fly-In, held September 10-11 at the Ken Jernstedt Airfield, was the biggest, most successful event in Hood River Fly-In history, nearing 4,000 attendees and 538 planes flying in. The annual affair is organized by the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM), and traditionally takes place the weekend after Labor Day. Port staff hosted an information booth with the new FBO, TacAero, to provide information about upcoming development plans at the airport.
Bridge allision settlement
The Port of Hood River reached a settlement with its insurance company, Chubb Insurance Group of Philadelphia, over damage allegedly caused by a barge colliding with a support structure. The insurance company payment of $106,000 helps cover engineering specialists and bridge repair for damage to its concrete support pillar and cable connections to the structure’s lift span. The lift mechanism was presumably rocked by the vessel’s impact. HDR Engineering found the north tower was misaligned and span guides were rubbing on guardrails. Although there was no danger to vehicular traffic, the lift span could not be raised until repairs were made. The Port used its resources to locate the vessel that caused damages, but those efforts were inconclusive, which led to the settlement.
New Lost & Found policy
Modified Lost and Found procedures for the Event Site that were instituted by the Port in May streamlined the collection and return of lost items this past season, ultimately saving the Port significant staff time. In 2015, the Port collected and tagged close to 500 lost items, with only 33% eventually claimed. Upon evaluation, Port staff found a 78% claim rate was made on more valuable items. The new policy instructed Port staff to collect and log only the more valuable items: boards, paddles, kites, sails, kite bars and lines, booms, masts, life jacket vests, wetsuits, helmets, bikes, scooters, and personal valuables such as wallets, keys, phones or prescription sunglasses. These items are kept at least three months before donation to a charitable organization. Other lost items (like flip flops, books, and water bottles) are stored in bins located at the Event Site, with retrieval based on an honor system. The bins are locked at night, and are cleared out every two weeks. “The new Lost and Found procedures have saved us so much time,” says Melissa Child, Port Finance Specialist. “Both in the collection and tagging of the items, and in servicing folks who come into the office to claim their items. It’s been a huge improvement.”