Tuesday, September 30, 2014

 Standing on the 11th street pier in front of the Astoria Trolley City officials announced Wednesday afternoon that Astoria will receive an 8.4 million dollar ODOT grant through the State Transportation Improvement Plan Federal bridge program that the city will use to replace the wooden wharfs that come at the end of six streets on the riverfront. Combined with a previous recent bridge fund grant to rebuild the Franklin Avenue bridge and the grant to rebuild the Irving Avenue Bridge and taking into account other projects over the last 6 years the city has been the recipient of nearly $20 million in Local Bridge Fund Program grants.

 

The grant, which requires a 10% match by the city will be used to replace the old high maintenance wooden piers with modern steel and concrete construction just like the project currently underway to replace the 17th street dock. According to City Manager Paul Benoit the city spends between $40,000 to $70,000 a year to keep those street end docks shored up.  This $8.4 million announced Wednesday is the largest single grant Astoria has received and came as the result of Public Works Director Ken Cook and City Engineer Jeff Harrington making the trip to Salem when the granting committee met to go through the many projects from throughout the state that were submitted.  Cook told KAST News that when committee members had questions about other projects those cities had no one there to answer those questions when questions came up about the Astoria request, Cook and Harrington were there to give more detail. Cook said that the 15 member committee then asked that the city prioritize the project by street saying it might help ensure that some funding might be available to do a few of those new "bridges". Mayor Van Dusen told KAST news that the terminology was a very important factor because if the request had been to rebuild docks or trestles, as these street ends are often called, the projects would not qualify for funds from the federal bridge program.  Cook said he and Harrington then prioritized several street end bridges thinking funding might be available to do three of them but Cook left all the rest of the streets as well.  Later he found out that the committee decided to fund the entire project.  The timeline for construction has not been established as yet and the City Council will have to approve acceptance of the grant at a council meeting where the City Manager will also provide a proposal for meeting the required match. After that the scope of the projects will be defined and requests for proposals would go out looking for design and construction. Benoit told KAST news that the state will allow Astoria to do the street projects over a period of years and that means there's more time to seek additional funding to meet the total $800,000 match required and the city only has to match the amounts expended each year.  

As a side note, when the Astoria Megler bridge was under construction is was nicknamed "The bridge to nowhere" because for many years the giant span hung over the river uncompleted as Washington State was delayed in funding the half of the bridge they were responsible for building.  The street "bridges" go nowhere as well.

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