Ferry Street Bridge Safety Questioned

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EUGENE, Ore. — The Ferry Street Bridge in Eugene has been ranked as one of the most dangerous in the country. The ranking comes from Travel and Leisure magazine.

When public works leaders survey the bridge, they say it might be old but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not safe. When you look at the nuts and bolts, there are a lot of pieces that go into keeping a bridge structurally sound, but the city says residents shouldn’t be worried.

A recent article in Travel and Leisure magazine ranked the Ferry Street Bridge the 10th most dangerous in the country because, “It’s fracture critical.” That means it lacks a redundancy among its components, which makes the bridge susceptible to partial or total collapse should any one of those components fail.

But public works leaders say the bridge is sturdy and isn’t a high safety risk for residents.

“You’ve got some rust on some bolts. It’s showing it’s age, but in terms of the fracture critical, failure critical pieces, they’re all in good shape,” said Tom Larsen, City of Eugene Traffic Engineer.

Larsen says the bridge, which was built in 1951 was built to ’50s standards. But it underwent a $30 million seismic upgrade from 1997 to 2000, which he says made the bridge safer.

“We actually rebuilt the foundations both at both ends and under the middle, added a lot of these rails, repainted it, widened the sidewalks on both sides by three feet,” Larsen said.

Larsen says when they’re inspecting the bridge, they’re looking for trouble spots. If there was a significant amount of rust on one of the beams, that would be reason for concern, but so far so good.

“It’s a perfectly good bridge. I drive it several times a week,” Larsen said.

But some residents feel more needs to be done.

“Living right down the street from the most fancy football stadium in the country. I feel like maybe we could knock on Phil Knight’s door and ask for a donation, put our hat in our hands,” said Eugene resident Julie Whitmore.

As for talks about bridge replacement, public works leaders say that’s something the voters will need to decide. If that were to happen, there’d be a lot to think about in terms of widening lanes and adding higher clearance for trucks.

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