REEDSPORT — The time to replace the Scholfield Bridge is now.
That's the message coming from city officials and others.
Reedsport and the rest of the Oregon coast sits along a subduction earthquak zone.
"We pushed for funding to replace the bridge, even giving testimony to the state transportation committee, but as of yet we are not aware of any funds being allocated," wrote City Manager Jonathan Wright in a text to the Umpqua Post. "It should also be noted that the bridge has caused damage to the city's levee system, increasing the community's vulnerability to a flood."
Dan Loop agrees. As team leader/instructor and CERT coordinator for the coastal section of Douglas County, he has the emergency perspective.
"The Schofield Bridge provides the only access that residences, businesses and the traveling public have to emergency services outside of the floodplain and tusunami inundation zone in Reedsport," Loop said. He's been the CERT leader since 2012 and worked as the coordinator since 2015. Noting the bridge's age plus its "construction type and settlement" it "is highly vulnerable to failure during a natural disaster."
"Failure of the bridge would result in deaths and injuries to people on the bridge and, even more importantly, would result in grave life safety risk for the entire population of the 'midtown,' 'downtown,' and for all those traversing the state on Highway 101 and Highway 38," Loop said.
Keith Tymchuk served as mayor a number of years and weighed in on Schofield Bridge.
City staff have worked closely with the Reedsport School District and school board to do whatever's needed to ensure that in the case of an earthquake and/or tsunami, citizens can easily get to Highland Elementary and the Reedsport Community Charter School, both of which sit on higher ground. Under the arrangement, both schools would serve as emergency locations in the case of a natural disaster.
Schofield Bridge crosses the Schofield Creek and sits almost directly across from the Les Schwab Tire Center on Highway 101.
According to a September 2016 document entitled "Schofield Bridge Replacement" for a legislative packet, the structure "provides the only access that residences, businesses and the traveling public have to emergency services outside of the flood plain and tsunami inundation zone in Reedsport."
Workers built Schofield Bridge in 1928 and because of its age, construction type and settlement into the soil, it "is highly vulnerable to failure during a natural disaster." Laborers put in improvements in 1952, "when the original wood bridge deck was replaced by a concrete bridge deck."
Yet in the early 1950s, workers failed to replace the original wood pilings. Schofield Bridge continues to sit on these pilings. If the bridge were to collapse, that would result in deaths and injuries for those still on the structure. There would also be a risk to those living and working in Old Town and midtown. Officials estimate 500 to 1,000 people would die from an earthquake and tsunami.
An earthquake or tsunami would hit, with total or partial loss within 30 minutes.
"I believe that this issue is of catastrophic importance," Loop emphasized. "The state of Oregon and Douglas County should make this a number one priority."