Waterfront bridge plans may be on track

Work on waterfront bridges could start as scheduled this fall.

Plans to replace Astoria’s waterfront bridges this year might be back on track.

The Oregon Department of Transportation officially awarded the project to Legacy Contracting. The company had submitted the lowest bid, but the estimate was still well over what the state and city had budgeted for the project. The state has since released more funds.

Cindy Moore, assistant city engineer, anticipates Astoria will ultimately need to provide around $440,000 in matching funds. On Monday, the City Council approved a supplemental budget to provide $220,000 to cover the unanticipated expenses. Moore says there will be another request for a change to the budget when she knows the final amount of money the city will need to provide to match the state contribution.

For now, the city is waiting on a schedule from the contractor to determine whether work begins in the fall. However, it looks likely work on the six bridges located at the base of Sixth Street through 11th Street will start this year as scheduled.

“We’re on track and we’re making progress,” Moore said.

The city hopes to avoid expensive repairs on the bridges by beginning to replace the structures this year. If work can’t begin in the fall, the city will need to go ahead and pay for the repairs or risk having to close the bridges.

The City Council also released $66,632 for inspection and design work on the tracks and trestles that carry the Astoria Riverfront Trolley along the Astoria Riverwalk and across the waterfront bridges. The money comes out of the city’s Promote Astoria fund, which is intended for tourist-related projects.

The city has already budgeted $350,000 to cover the cost of inspection, design and maintenance of the tracks and trestles this fiscal year. Around $250,000 will likely go to maintenance work on the structures.

In other business, the City Council:

• Discussed providing urban renewal money for renovation work at the Liberty Theatre that would improve the building’s stage and allow the theater to host more elaborate productions. A $1.3 million urban renewal grant enabled the purchase of the theater in 2000.

The theater provides a venue for live music, but isn’t able to host any productions that require scenery or complicated lighting.

“As tourists visit from other cities, they expect to see a level of theater we can’t provide,” said Jennifer Crockett, the theater’s director.

The Liberty Theatre had requested $45,000 in city arts and cultural grant money, but that would have left almost nothing for other groups. Mayor Arline LaMear said the city still wished to support the theater, however, and agreed to look at other ways of providing the money.

City Councilor Zetty Nemlowill suggested the city look at giving the theater a mix of a grant and a low- or zero-interest loan, a solution that would help the theater but also put money back into the urban renewal district. City leaders hope to build up urban renewal funds to redevelop Heritage Square near City Hall. The square includes the Garden of Surging Waves as well as an unsightly, caved-in area where a Safeway grocery store once stood.

City staff will investigate options and return with a proposal for the City Council to consider.

• Approved an agreement with the Lower Columbia Preservation Society for the long-term care and maintenance of the replica of the first U.S. Customs House west of the Rocky Mountains and the surrounding parkland. The Customs House and park are located across from Safeway, off Lief Erikson Drive.

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