“London Bridge is falling down, falling down…” says the English nursery rhyme. Is Salem’s version to be: “Minto Bridge is falling behind, falling behind…?”

Falling behind it is from earlier estimates admits Aaron Kimsey, Senior Project Manager for the City of Salem, but, he adds, there is still time to meet the project’s final completion date of December 31, 2016. Meeting the substantial completion date of September 30th might prove more difficult.

The delay is due to difficulties in constructing the curved, lofty arches that will sweep 300 ft over the Willamette Slough and attach to fixed abutments on each bank. The two arches are being built in Utah by UIS, a metal fabricator. According to Kimsey the first arch will be delivered Monday, May 23rd in four pieces.

The arch will be welded on site into two halves. Each half will be lifted by crane from the assembly space to the bridge placements and attached there to the banks. The two halves then, while supported by temporary towers, will be welded to form a complete and stable arch. Kimsey anticipates that that if all goes well the first arch should be in place about June 11th.

The second arch should be delivered in mid-June and, if no hitches develop, installed by the end of the month. This is three months later than earlier estimates which called for the arches to arrive in February and installation to be completed by the end of March.

Once the arches are in place the vertical struts will be hung and the pre-cast concrete deck panels attached. This arch, strut and deck work will be done by Legacy Construction of Stayton, the general contractor. It will require use of the large cranes on the site, the construction bridge which runs parallel to the new bridge and the temporary support towers which will be used for arch placement. The pilings for the construction bridge and the support towers extend into the Slough and this creates a deadline which is of concern to the City.

The Minto Bridge has a permit from the Army Corp of Engineers which allows “in water” work only from June 1st until October 15th. The construction bridge and the support towers cannot be removed until the arches and the cement deck and possibly some approach work are done. This most likely will extend into late July.

Removal of the pilings is estimated to take up to three months which, in turn, may extend beyond October 15th the deadline for the Corp’s in water permit. Short term permit extensions have been approved on a case by case basis. It all depends on the facts. Kimsey acknowledges that the removal of the pilings could be delayed into 2017 but for now he hopes the contractors can meet the Corp’s permit deadline.

In addition to the arch and deck work on the bridge the project includes extensive elevated approaches. There are 37 feet of these panels on the east side of the bridge and 150 ft on the west side. These approaches will connect the ground level paths to the bridge structure. The panels will be cast in place. The west side also includes a large seating and overlook area. Some of this work has been done.

Paths around the existing Eco Earth Ball have had to be refigured in part to connect with the bridge and in part to meet ADA grade requirements. This has resulted in some piercing of the two foot demarcation barrier previously established as part of the enviornmental clean-up of the property when the park was built. Nothing has happened which was not anticipated. All contaminated soil disturbed in the process has been removed and properly disposed of and new barriers established.

All in all, much remains to be done and the clock is ticking. The City recognizes this and eagerly awaits the arrival of the arches.  At the end of the famous rhyme, London Bridge was built “of strongest stone, to last alone, last alone…” Minto Bridge is to be made of strongest steel  and may its storied rhyme conclude that it was “done on time, done on time….”