$870,000 will help pay for fourth bridge in four yearsSEASIDE - Plans to replace another bridge in Seaside to improve safety are now possible with an award of $870,000 in state funds, Mayor Rosemary Baker-Monaghan announced Thursday.

Holding its business meeting in Cannon Beach following a two-day regional tour, the Oregon Transportation Commission agreed to grant the funding request toward replacing the West 12th Avenue Bridge. The Oregon Transportation Investment Act, or "OTIA," funds will be matched by up to $500,000 set aside for the project through the Greater Seaside Urban Renewal District.

"I'm very excited," Baker-Monaghan said. She had been championing the project through her service on the Northwest Area Commission on Transportation.

The background material and application for the funds assembled by the city staff was "fabulous, a first-class presentation," she added. In the commission's deliberation process, the project "sailed through, because we have a track record of success."

The project will mark the fourth aging bridge in Seaside replaced in less than four years.

It follows the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge on First Avenue, the East 12th Avenue Bridge and the East Broadway Bridge - dedicated Monday as Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Commissioners saw the Veterans Memorial Bridge during their tour of regional transportation projects Wednesday. The $544,000 bridge, completed in May, was the first project in Oregon finished with OTIA funds, and it was completed on time and under budget, Baker-Monaghan said.

Seaside has nine bridges, and a large number of people would depend on the West 12th Avenue Bridge to cross the Necanicum River in times of an emergency, she said. "It's crucial to that end of town."

As with the other recent bridge projects, it will be built to modern design standards to better withstand damage from an earthquake. It also will have more space between the spans, reducing the chance debris will get caught against it during a flood.

Designs call for sidewalks 10 feet wide to allow the popular activities of crabbing and fishing from the bridge to continue, while also improving safety for drivers, Baker-Monaghan said. The strategy of wider sidewalks was preferred to earlier concepts of fencing along the bridge, she said.

Ken Meiser, executive director of the Seaside Chamber of Commerce, said the funding news was positive considering the active use of the bridge, as well as an example of state attention to local transportation projects. He credited Baker-Monaghan, who is approaching the end of a four-year term as mayor.

"It's a great culmination for Rosemary, having secured funding for these bridges."

Construction possibly could begin as soon as January but might not begin until early 2004, said Chris Davies, Seaside public works director.

Much of the design work was completed a year ago when the city first applied for OTIA funds, he said. Believed to have been built in the late 1940s or early 1950s, the existing bridge is overdue for replacement, he said.

But construction scheduling can be a challenge. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife uses permits to restrict the timing and duration of construction activity in rivers based on impacts to fish, and the life cycle of coho salmon in the Necanicum generally translates to a window of January and February for any in-stream work, Davies said.

The city must finish the designs and, assuming the environmental permits are granted, conduct a bidding process for contractors before work begins.

Regarding a January 2003 start time, "I'm not saying it couldn't be done, but it would be a very tight schedule," Davies said. The alternative would be preparation for construction to begin in 2004.

If all goes well, Davies estimates the total project cost at roughly $1 million, similar to the First Avenue Bridge project, which cost approximately $950,000. The West 12th Avenue Bridge will cost more than the newer bridges crossing Neawanna Creek because it will be longer, wider and involve more utility work, he said.

Davies branded the announcement of the bridge funding as significant, and said residents should be proud of having ranked the project as a high priority.

Among benefits, the project will boost the local economy with construction work and improve Seaside's transportation system, he said. "Whenever the city and citizens can get (nearly) $1 million from another government agency, that's good news."

Kathy McMullen, area manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation, had worked with Baker-Monaghan and other local officials to coordinate the bus tour taken by transportation commissioners Wednesday.

After surveying the north entrance project in Cannon Beach, commissioners traveled north through Seaside, Gearhart and Warrenton, ending at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria.

They took a trip on the riverfront trolley and later heard a series of presentations. Among them, Northwest Area Commission on Transportation officials discussed the effectiveness of coordinated efforts by Tillamook and Clatsop counties; Don McDaniel of the Port of Astoria spoke on local economic development needs; Jan Mitchell of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Association discussed potential traffic impacts of commemoration events; and ecologist Neal Maine presented slides of Seaside's natural history park project and wildlife not far from U.S. Highway 101.

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