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Caveman Bridge will get a makeover

Caveman Bridge, arguably the most recognizable landmark in Grants Pass, will get a $5.3 million overhaul beginning in September.

People can learn about the renovation project at an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, at The Lodge at Riverside, a stone's throw from the bridge at 955 S.E. Seventh St.

"The open house will showcase a walk-through of the planned bridge improvements and provide detailed information about the construction impacts to traffic and nearby businesses," said Stephanie Bentea of the Oregon Department of Transportation. "We also encourage the public to bring pictures, postcards and other mementos related to the Caveman Bridge."

ODOT says the project is the first major upgrade to Caveman Bridge since it opened in 1931. The work is not expected to be as difficult for commuters as the downtown repaving project in the late 1990s.

Although it is in no danger of collapse, Caveman Bridge is also one of more than 400 bridges in Oregon judged to be structurally deficient.

The project will:

  • Repair and strengthen sections of cracked concrete, exposed rebar and failed joints along the nearly 550-foot structure.
  • Repair bridge deck deterioration and replace it with stronger concrete overlay.
  • Replace the bridge rail, maintaining its unique aesthetic while meeting today's safety standards.
  • Add new lighting that maintains the character of the bridge's street lights.

Caveman is a "mini McCullough," one of numerous Oregon bridges built by the legendary Conde McCullough in the first half of the 20th century.

The McCullough Bridge at North Bend, Yaquina Bay Bridge at Newport, and Siuslaw River Bridge at Florence are the most famous of McCullough's bridges, but dozens of others can be seen, many on the coast.

Rock Point Bridge over the Rogue River at Gold Hill is another McCullough Bridge, as is the Isaac Lee Patterson Bridge in Gold Beach.

Built in 1931, Caveman Bridge is unusual in its "through-arch" design, which means the road runs in the middle of the arches, as opposed to on top or on the bottom of the arches, according to Robert Harlow, historian for ODOT and author of the book "Elegant Arches, Soaring Spans."

The Wilson River Bridge in Tillamook and Tenmile Creek and Big Creek on the central Oregon coast are also through-arch bridges designed by McCullough.

Reach reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.com.