Friday, March 30, 2012

Coming soon: a new bridge near Satus Pass

By guest blogger Summer Derrey
A sharp corner and narrow shoulders leave
 little room to navigate the Satus Creek Bridge.
US 97 cuts through the shrub-covered steppe in south central Washington, just south of Toppenish. The highway weaves around the rolling foothills that are checkered by sagebrush. Signs on the winding 65 mph highway warn the traveler to slow down to 55 at Satus Creek. The 132-foot bridge over Satus Creek has shoulders less than two-feet wide on each side, leaving little room for error.

About four collisions per year take place on or around the bridge. About half of the wrecks are due to motorists bumping into the guardrail.

It’s time to tear down the 70-year old wooden artifact and replace it with a bridge that suits today’s drivers.

US 97 is worthy of repair because the popular freight corridor is the shortest route between Yakima and Portland. It’s the only north to south route on the Yakama Indian Reservation. US 97 intersects with Interstate 84 in Biggs, Oregon. From there, motorists can go east to Pendleton, or west to The Dalles, Hood River and beyond.

We are working with contractor William Charles West of Kennewick, this spring, summer and fall to replace the bridge in (basically) three steps:

  1. Build a detour around the existing bridge.
  2. Remove the old bridge.
  3. Build the new bridge.
The new bridge will hold heavier loads, will be 48 feet longer, and will have wider lanes with a little more breathing-room on the shoulders. Crews will also repave sections of US 97 half a mile north and a mile and a half south of the bridge, expand lanes and shoulders, and improve sight distance.

Like all warmer-weather construction projects, there will be delays. In the spring, motorists will wait up to 15 minutes, and in the summer, drivers may be delayed a bit longer, so pack your patience.

A lengthy detour route is available, so consider the extra time and miles compared to the estimated delays on US 97. Southbound motorists can head east on State Route 22 toward Prosser, and then take SR 221 south to the intersection with SR 14 in Paterson. From there, drivers can either travel east to cross the Columbia River on I-82 into Umatilla, Oregon or west to cross the river on US 97 into Biggs, Oregon. Northbound motorists can use the same detour route, in reverse order. Signs will direct drivers through the detour.

In the fall, the waiting will be over. The smell of sage, the screech of the red-tailed hawk and the dust kicked up by the wild horses won’t be the only attractions in the valley. The new bridge will be a welcomed addition.