McCullough Bridge Work

Workers walk Tuesday on a platform built along the east side of the McCullough Bridge as the Oregon Department of Transportation prepares to paint the 83-year-old span over Coos Bay.

NORTH BEND — A chain link fence is going up above the roadway on the McCullough Bridge and it has many people asking why.

“This project is painting the steel truss section of the bridge, which started a month ago and will continue through October 2021,” said Dan Latham, public information officer for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The mile-long bridge, opened in 1936, gets a new coat of paint once every 20 years. The project is necessary because the steel truss section begins to deteriorate in that time and rust becomes visible.

Chain link fence hangs Tuesday over the roadway on the McCullough Bridge as the Oregon Department of Transportation prepares to paint.

“This project will remove the rust, replace rivets, repair damaged steel, and paint the steel truss,” ODOT explained on www.mcculloughbridge.com. “Over the last decade, the bridge has seen two major rehabilitation projects. This includes replacing the rail, resurfacing the deck, and applying cathodic protection treatment to the concrete sections of the bridge to prevent corrosion.”

But the bridge needs more work, which is why ODOT has contracted out the $37,808,726 project to Vimas Painting Company Inc. from Lowellville, Ohio. It is being funded through the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

“An enclosure will be put over the steel section of the bridge and sandblast and paint it,” Latham said. “The enclosure will be moved several times over the next two years.”

The chain link fence began to go up Sunday night and will be finished this week. The purpose of the fence is to catch any materials or machinery that may fall during the painting process, preventing it from hitting the roadway.

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In addition, concrete work can be seen on the south end of the bridge at Ferry Road. This is where ODOT is putting in a temporary crosswalk since the painting project will close one of the sidewalks on the bridge.

“There’s already a crosswalk at the north end of the bridge,” Latham said. “We have to put in a temporary crosswalk at the south end. They have the concrete ramps in, but haven’t painted it. Once they do, they will close one sidewalk and let people cross the road to access the other one.”

After the project ends in 2021, Latham said the concrete ramps are expected to stay for ADA accessibility.

As for the enclosure at the steel section of the McCullough Bridge, Latham said it will be airtight with pumps to filter the air coming out. This way, no debris enters the roadway or the bay.

The project will impact traffic, though only at night when there may be closures. These nighttime closures have already begun.

“Flagging stations will be at either end of the bridge when they put in the work and enclosure and move it,” Latham said. “The nighttime traffic lane closures will have a sidewalk closure on one side of the bridge or another.”

These closures are intermittent. A general warning has been released to the public to expect delay when crossing the bridge at night.

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.