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ODOT plans work on Highway 101 Siuslaw River bridge

EUGENE — The Oregon Department of Transportation is getting ready to start renovation of a Highway 101 bridge over the Siuslaw River in Florence.

The four-year, $37 million project is supposed to prevent corrosion and extend the bridge's life by at least two decades, but the construction will cause intermittent traffic delays.

ODOT is opening bidding this month for contractors hoping to do the work. The goal is to start construction around April and wrap up by spring 2019, ODOT spokesman Rick Little told the Eugene Register-Guard.

Using a process called cathodic protection, workers will spray a zinc coating on the bridge's deck. River water will then corrode the zinc over time, instead of the steel that keeps the bridge standing.

"The whole goal of cathodic protection is to protect the integrity of steel reinforcement bars," which are embedded in the bridge's concrete, Little said.

The bridge's side rails also will be replaced to bring them up to current crash standards. Changes to the pedestrian walkways along the sides will make them more handicap-accessible.

State and federal transportation funds will pay for the project.

Florence officials are bracing for some traffic implications, both from the bridge work and planned repairs along Highway 126, which runs east from Florence to Eugene.

But the result of both projects will be better connectivity for travelers and businesses that rely on the highways, said Cal Applebee, executive director of the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce.

"We're going to see a lot of orange trucks around town the next few years," Applebee said. "But it's going to be a much-needed improvement. Our highways are in pretty shabby shape right now."

The Siuslaw River Bridge opened in 1936, part of a state project that built five large bridges along the coast. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.