Umatilla is looking at between $3.2 million and $4.3 million to replace its pedestrian bridge across the Umatilla River.
The bridge partially collapsed sometime late Saturday night or early Sunday morning as the Umatilla River ran unusually high and fast. Engineers performed an evaluation for the city on Tuesday.
City manager David Stockdale said the engineers were not able to definitively rule the bridge a total loss because the floodwaters were still too high to properly assess the abutments. But they felt fairly confident it would not be salvageable.
The city had an 18-inch water main running through the bridge, and Stockdale said the engineers said demolishing and replacing the bridge with the water main would be a $3.2 million project. If government agencies decide that the water main needs to be run under the river instead of along the bridge, that would bump the estimated project cost up to $4.3 million.
The good news, Stockdale said, is Umatilla County emergency manager Tom Roberts said the price tag might be what puts the county over the damage threshold to receive federal and state disaster funds for recovery. The city council passed a resolution declaring a city emergency on Tuesday night.
Stockdale said the city wants to replace the bridge as soon as possible, but it will likely take more than a year to do so.
The bridge, built in 1978, connects Umatilla’s South Hill neighborhoods to downtown. It is about half a mile west of Umatilla High School and Clara Brownell Middle School, and Stockdale said an estimated 50 students had been taking that route to school every day in addition to adult pedestrians. Now some of the students are walking or riding across the Highway 730 bridge further west.
“It really is a travesty,” he said of the loss.
Umatilla School District superintendent Heidi Sipe said the South Hill neighborhood is covered by bus routes, and any student who had previously been walking across the bridge to school could elect to ride the bus instead of going the long way around.
“There’s no reason for a student to feel they have to walk,” she said.
She said they had seen an increase in bus riders this week, and had needed to “reeducate” some students who hadn’t ridden the bus previously and were confused about which bus they were supposed to take.
She said law enforcement was doing a good job of keeping people away from the broken bridge, and the district had sent out messages to parents.