Bridge replacement project will continue into 2016

$10 million effort began in late 2014

Work continues on a project to replace a railroad bridge in Camas that is more than 100 years old.

According to BNSF Railways Spokesman Gus Melonas, platforms adjacent to the Washougal River Bridge are currently being built and will be ready in the first quarter of 2016.

“The bulk of the work — approximately 98 percent — will be able to occur from the temporary structures we are installing right now. During the construction process, a two-day closure of the bridge will take place, as the new structure is put into place.”

Originally built in 1908, the 550-foot long railroad bridge runs above the Washougal River and parallels Southeast Sixth Avenue. Over the years, work has been done to improve and maintain the bridge, but it has never been replaced.

Although Melonas said BNSF does not typically announce the names of its contractors, Kansas City, Missouri-based TranSystems states on its website that it led the Washougal River Bridge project’s design and is heading up construction management duties.

The main span will be replaced with a new steel structure that has a wider clearance. New piers will be installed, and the bridge’s foundation will be set deeper than it is now.

The new single track bridge will include a 203-foot through truss span, one 162-foot and 92-foot through plate girder spans, and two 42-foot pre-stressed concrete spans. The existing bridge consists of two 200-foot through truss spans with 50-foot deck plate girder approach spans.

Preliminary planning work for the massive $10 million project began in late 2014, and Melonas said the goal is to complete it by the end of 2016.

The Washougal River Bridge is one of 15 bridges around the state being replaced by BNSF in 2015 and 2016, in an effort to improve safety and efficiency.

“The bridge that is there [in Camas] lasted for decades,” he said. “The new bridge will have the finest in materials and state-of-the-art technology to ensure the protection of the railroad, the public and the environment.”

Melonas said BNSF railroad bridges are inspected three times a year by field experts. In addition, track inspectors look at the bridge rails on a daily basis, and on a quarterly basis rail detectors measure the integrity of the rail and a track geometry car measures factors including position, curvature and alignment. Dive teams inspect the support systems below the bridge, as necessary.

“All eyes are on these bridges at all times,” Melonas said.