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Bridge repair starts Tuesday morning

A “Rough Road” sign on the Oregon shore warns motorists crossing The Dalles bridge over the Columbia River of pothole damage on the bridge.

Photo by Jesse Burkhardt
A “Rough Road” sign on the Oregon shore warns motorists crossing The Dalles bridge over the Columbia River of pothole damage on the bridge.

Crews expect to begin work Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. on emergency repairs to an extensive amount of potholes on The Dalles bridge.

There will be one-lane closures during daytime, an official said, and motorists can expect 10-15 minute delays.

Brad DeHart, transportation engineer with the local office of Oregon Department of Transportation, said plans are to repair the potholes by Friday. “Hopefully sooner,” he said, “but there’s a lot. It’s pretty bad and it’s getting worse.”

Both lanes will be open at night, said Peter Murphy, public information officer for ODOT.

The Dalles branch of ODOT will be using local crew and equipment plus personnel and equipment from other branches to do the work, DeHart said. He said sharing resources within ODOT is not unusual.

“Winter weather conditions and increased vehicle traffic caused by recent storm event closures of Interstate 84 is causing significant distress to the asphalt pavement and numerous potholes have opened up across the bridge due to delamination of the asphalt wearing surface from the concrete deck beneath,” an email from ODOT stated.

The aging deck beneath the driving surface is also a factor, DeHart said. In fact, a project to replace the bridge deck is being planned for the next couple of years.

“We redid the wearing surface on that bridge in the fall of 2011,” DeHart said. Asked if it was a normal lifespan for that type of repair, he said, “I wish we could’ve gotten more out of it, but it’s just not the case.”

The repair process includes cleaning out the pothole using air, drying it with torches, then putting in hot asphalt mix, spreading it and compacting the asphalt in place, DeHart said.

He didn’t know how many potholes were on the bridge, but said they were in both lanes of travel. Video of the extensive pothole damage was posted to a local Facebook page Monday.

ODOT is working today on repairing potholes on Interstate 84 at milepost 90, and they will be there tomorrow as well, DeHart said.

The emergency repairs to the bridge are patches, Murphy said, and hopes are to do more significant work in spring. “Fixing it is not simple and it takes different kind of weather than what we have now,” Murphy said.

ODOT “will do the emergency work that’s necessary and then we’ll get into there, hopefully during the early spring. “It’s all weather dependent, Asphalt repairs, or concrete, they don’t adhere well in the winter. It’s not in their nature.” It’s much easier in warmer weather.

Potholes form where tires travel because of the pressure applied by tires, which causes flexing to take place, and with flexing comes weakness, and if its brittle, such as in winter conditions, then cracking happens, and water penetrates the crack and freezes and expands, and that process continues until a pothole is formed, Murphy said.

“We’re going to get in there and do urgent repairs and we’re just asking people to be patient,” Murphy said. “It’s nothing wrong, it’s just winter, it’s just been pretty bad up there.”

He said ODOT tries to conserve its winter maintenance budget to do pothole repairs. “that’s obviously out the window this year,” he said of the winter budget.

Asked for costs of the work, Murphy said it wasn’t known yet. “In a maintenance situation you just go do it and you work about numbers later, we’re trying to organize crews to get there.”

“This is kind of an all hands, let’s get it fixed” situation, he said.


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