SANDPOINT — A $16 million project to preserve the Long Bridge on U.S. Highway 95 is tracking to get underway ahead of schedule, according to the Idaho Transportation Department.
The project was originally slated for 2020, but could begin as early as 2018 because of legislative action in 2015 that raised Idaho’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees.
“It’s allowing us to move some projects up that were maybe in the pipeline for further down the road,” said Vince Trimboli, director of communications for ITD.
The preservation work is in the design phase and will include protecting the piling and substructure, along with painting the above-water portions of pilings. Work to protect submerged segments of piling is also being contemplated.
“This would be a big job as there are over 1000 piles in the bridge,” Trimboli said.
The work follows a $2.2 million bridge rehabilitation project in 2016. The project involved repairs to the submerged piers on both bridges, plus an epoxy overlay on the surface of the vehicle bridge to improve its durability and limit weather damage.
The rehab work also allowed engineers to determine the magnitude of the repairs that would be needed for the preservation project.
“It was also meant to be work that would give us an idea of what we need to do going forward with this $16 million phase 2 project,” Trimboli said of the rehab work.
Lessons learned in 2016 will also be used to manage traffic flows when the rehabilitation project commences.
The epoxy work was deemed the best short-term solution to seal the bridge deck and keep it from eroding. The resulting surface was rougher, although it kept the deck from coming apart, according to ITD.
The epoxy work also allowed the bridge to remain open to two-way traffic while it was being applied. It was laid down in thirds instead of one lane at a time, which would have forced extended closures of the heavily used span, ITD officials said.
Trimboli said routine maintenance to improve approaches to the bridge began in late 2016 and are expected to resume this year.
“We’re hoping that to get that finished in the spring,” he said.
The existing Long Bridge and its predecessor, which now serves as a cyclist and pedestrian bridge, will one day be removed and replaced with a four-lane structure with pedestrian facilities. However, funding for the $200 million project remains unidentified. Bridge replacement is part of a broader Sandpoint North & South project, which included construction of the Sand Creek Byway.
• A Long Bridge rehabilitation update can be found online at http://itd.idaho.gov/d1/.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.