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Time has taken its toll on the concrete railings of the First Avenue Bridge in Mill City. But residents of the area will have a chance to learn about potential revitalization plans for the area at a meeting Wednesday night. 

MILL CITY — The public is invited to learn about potential designs for the Mill City downtown restoration and revitalization project at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Santiam High School auditorium, 265 SW Evergreen.

The projects, along with Broadway Street improvements, will be paid for as part of an $8.1 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant the community received last year. Mill City will contribute $400,000 and Linn County $900,000 in-kind toward the project.

Linn County Engineer Chuck Knoll said engineering work and field work has been underway since an intergovernmental agreement was signed in April by Linn County and the Federal Highway Traffic Administration.

Knoll met with members of Mill City’s Save Our Bridge committee on July 10 and information will now be shared throughout the community.

Knoll said the project will be completed in three phases.

The first phase will be the rehabilitation of the First Avenue Bridge, which crosses the North Santiam River. Construction is planned from May to November 2020.

The second phase will include rehabilitation of the historic Railroad Pedestrian Bridge, which also crosses the North Santiam River. The project will include improvements to the paved path to North Fifth Avenue. The road surface will be widened and lighting added.

Construction will be from February to November 2021.

The third and final phase of the project will be to make improvements to the Mill City downtown area, including Southwest Broadway from First Avenue to Eighth Avenue, First Avenue from Southwest Cedar Street to Wall Street, Fifth Avenue from Southwest Broadway to the pedestrian path and a public bus stop on Wall Street.

The project will include new street and bridge lighting.

Construction is planned from March to November 2021.

Knoll said the final conceptual drawings are targeted for September.

Linn County took over maintenance of the First Avenue Bridge from the Oregon Department of Transportation. The bridge was constructed in 1934.

In 1960 the Mehama-Mill City Highway was transferred to Linn County and renamed Lyons-Mill City Drive. Since that time, Linn County and ODOT have shared ownership and maintenance of the First Avenue Bridge. The state took care of maintenance and Linn County funded it.

Knoll said the bridge will undergo major upgrades, including surface preparation and new paint for the steel structure, replacing a degraded concrete railing and repairing wooden structural supports.

The bridge portion of the project is projected to cost about $2.2 million.

The 120-foot-long historic railroad pedestrian bridge will receive new wooden structural supports, a new wooden deck and a fresh coat of paint.

The last time a train traveled over the bridge was in 1971. Today, the bridge is a popular spot for community gatherings.

The bridge is unique in that it is a rare Phoenix column-style and was originally built in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, in 1888. It served in San Jose, California, and Lake Oswego before being moved to Mill City in 1919. The community’s goal was to renovate the bridge in time for its 100th anniversary in the community later this year.

The TIGER program is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Linn County provided initial engineering, scoping and design information used in compiling the TIGER grant application.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.


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