25 Sep 2006
Cursed or not?
By KYLE ODEGARD
After the latest mishap at Marys River Bridge, some are beginning to
Mary Gallagher flipped through an old photo album at the Benton County
Historical Museum in Philomath, pausing at a sepiatone picture of the
Marys River Bridge.
The structure isn't spanning the water, though. It's sunk in the middle
of the river.
"They're standing on the side of the bridge after it flipped over," said
Gallagher, the museum's collection manager.
The photograph was taken after floodwaters destroyed the span on Feb. 6,
The bridge was significantly damaged by the flood of 1861, as well. It
also collapsed in 1932.
In 2004, the northbound bridge was shut down after a truck ran into it.
It's closed again now for the same reason.
Gallagher joked that the site of the bridge must be cursed.
The first creature to cross over the Marys River at downtown Corvallis
must have been a black cat.
Gallagher pointed out the Creffield house in the background of the 1890
photo. Perhaps Franz Creffield's ghost returned for revenge, the slain
holy roller haunting the town that tarred and feathered him after women
left their families to follow his weird religious group.
The latest closure stems from Aug. 30, when a truck hauling a forklift
on a trailer struck the overhead cross beams, denting two and tearing
completely through a third beam.
"We're still looking at mid-October" for the bridge to reopen, said Joe
Harwood, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
Last week, work crews were flame straightening beams, heating and
bending those that could be salvaged. The contract for repairing the
bridge is for $187,000.
A detour reroutes northbound traffic on Highway 99W to the Highway 34
bypass, then to the Harrison Avenue Bridge over the Willamette River.
Many savvy motorists cut through Avery Park, however.
The bright closure doesn't impact southbound traffic, as another bridge
just west of the closed span takes motorists south on Highway 99W.
"Since the bridge is already closed, ODOT's Corvallis maintenance crew
has done some asphalt work on the bridge approaches," Harwood said.
The October 2004 crash and closure was similar, with a truck carrying an
oversize load hitting the bridge, buckling support beams and damaging
overhead cross braces. It was closed for nearly three weeks for repairs.
The height of the bridge is 14 feet 9 inches.
Construction on it started in 1934, and the state bridge engineer, Conde
B. McCullough, signed the drawings. ODOT was unsure if he actually
designed the span, however.
The bridge has some stock elements but also some details emblematic of
McCullough, a former Corvallis college professor known for his scenic,
arched spans on the Oregon Coast, including the Yaquina Bay Bridge in
In 1932, a faculty member of Oregon State College was on the span when
it collapsed, but suffered only minor injuries.
It was a narrow escape. One of the beams from the 1910 structure crushed
the back of his car.
The Marys River also was used as a mill pond at the time, and the bridge
fell onto logs in the water.
The Gazette-Times credited this with preventing the bridge floor from
flooding, and probably saving the man's life.
"And how long will it be till the cry goes once again … Corvallis
bridge is falling down?" asked a 1932 Gazette-Times article, mimicking
the nursery rhyme.
According to reporter Bob Johnson, the bridge was filled with spectators
when it tipped in 1890, but everyone scrambled onto shore safely when it
began to move.
The first bridge over the Marys River at downtown Corvallis was built in
1856, according to Works Progress Administration historical reports.
"It was a toll bridge, which brought the settlers up in arms
immediately. Eventually, the county bought the bridge," wrote Victor
Spencer in a 1964 copy of Corvallis Magazine.
The state later acquired the bridge from the county a few years before
the 1932 collapse.
Detour has hurt some local businesses
By BENNETT HALL and KYLE ODEGARD
The shutdown of the Marys River Bridge is a headache for motorists, but
it's also causing some heartache for local businesses. A number of
downtown merchants are reporting a dent in their sales since the bridge
was closed for repairs Aug. 30.
A forklift being transported by a United Rentals flatbed truck snagged
the span's superstructure, rendering it unsafe. Since then, northbound
traffic heading into Corvallis on Highway 99W has been rerouted around
downtown via the Highway 34 Bypass and the Harrison Avenue Bridge.
Oregon Department of Transportation officials say it will be at least
mid-October before the bridge reopens.
At Red Horse Coffee Co., 310 S.W. Third St., the closure has translated
into a significant amount of lost revenue.
"We noticed a definite difference," said owner John Howe. "It can mean
anywhere from $20 to $100 a day."
For his small business, Howe said, that's real money.
Jessy Yorgey said her quilting supply shop at 212 S.W. Third St. has
also taken a hit. After seeing strong numbers in July and August, she
said, sales at Quiltwork Patches have fallen off noticeably in
"Yesterday I was scratching my head, wondering why it was so slow,"
Yorgey said Friday. "My guess is it's impacted us some."
Robnett's Hardware has also seen a slight dip in its income, although it
hasn't felt the pinch as much as some other businesses.
"Us being a destination store, it's not too bad for us," said Julie
Robnett. "People are going to come to us because we're the hardware
As far as Howe is concerned, the solution is obvious: take out the old
bridge and replace it with a modern span.
"It's antiquated, it's out of date and it no longer meets the needs of a
community that says it's growing," he said.
Driver error, not an inadequate bridge, is responsible for the closure
of the Marys River Bridge for the second time in two years, said Joe
Harwood, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
Northbound traffic was also restricted in October 2004. Like last
month's incident, a truck's oversize load crashed into the bridge and
"There are some truckers out there who don't observe the rules," Harwood
"Anything over 14 feet tall is considered an over-height load. They have
to get a special permit through our motor carrier division," Harwood
"People just aren't paying attention. The bridge is clearly posted. Most
of the haulers out there know this isn't an extremely tall bridge," he
Over-height trucks get specific instructions on routes to take, Harwood
Overhead clearance on the Marys River Bridge is 14 feet, 9 inches.
"Most of the freight trucks on Interstate 5, they're under the 14-foot
minimum. They have no trouble navigating the Marys River Bridge,"
Many of the overpasses on interstate highways have between 15 and 16
feet of clearance. But some even on I-5 are lower than the Marys River
Bridge, Harwood said.
The new standard for clearance on interstate highways, passed within the
last few years, is 17½ feet, he said.
For now, there are no plans or even proposals to replace the Marys River
Bridge. Any proposal would be complicated because it is a historical
structure, Harwood said.
Howe thinks that designation is misguided.
December 1861 n Flood significantly damages Marys River Bridge.
Feb. 6, 1890 n Floodwaters tip bridge into the river.
Aug. 16, 1932 n Bridge collapses into river.
Oct. 8, 2004 n A truck with an oversize load hits the bridge, closing it
for nearly three weeks.
Aug. 30, 2006 n A truck hauling a forklift smashes into bridge, which
will be closed until mid-October.