Tribune/Joel Mills

ABOVE AND BELOW: A project to widen and repair the Clearwater Memorial Bridge entering Lewiston is set to start in 2023 will last as long as two years. Work on the project got started in the last couple of weeks with the drilling of core samples and an analysis of the riverbed so engineers can determine the best way to increase its weight capacity.

A project to widen and repair the Clearwater Memorial Bridge in a few years will be a business-boosting complement to this summer’s realignment of the U.S. Highway 12-21st Street intersection in Lewiston, according to Idaho Transportation Department officials.

Project manager Curtis Arnzen said work on the aging span is scheduled to begin in 2023 and last up to two years. But it could start earlier if plans come together quickly. Those who want to help guide the process may attend an open house from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday at Lewiston’s Red Lion Hotel, 621 21st St., to learn more and offer input.

“It is a commerce-restricting route, so trucks that need oversize permits are limited,” Arnzen said. “The project, once it’s built, will be up to modern loading standards. We want to keep commerce flowing freely in that area. Plus, it’s a 68-year-old bridge, and it’s getting close to the end of its design life.”

The ongoing intersection project shares a similar goal of facilitating traffic flow to the busy East Lewiston industrial area that includes Clearwater Paper and Idaho Forest Group. The Idaho Transportation Department is cautiously optimistic that $7.5 million project is a little ahead of schedule, and could be done before the anticipated late-September completion date, Arnzen said.

Crews from general contractor Western Construction of Lewiston and various subcontractors have been focused on the south side of the project, which makes up the bulk of construction. They have already begun pouring the concrete roadways, Arnzen said, and could shift to the northern portion of the intersection along Locomotive Park in as little as a month.

On-the-ground work on the bridge project actually got started in the last couple of weeks with the drilling of core samples and an analysis of the riverbed so engineers can determine the best way to increase its weight capacity. Passing motorists may have seen a barge moored near the southwest corner of the bridge early last week that served as a platform for the work.

A feasibility study conducted last year concluded that the existing piers can be reused, while the bridge girders and deck will be replaced and strengthened. Reusing the piers will not only save money, but also lessen the project’s environmental impacts. And the new elements will prepare the bridge for future use.

The study found that the bridge sees an average of more than 29,000 trips per day, but will see that number increase by about 10,000 trips over the next two decades. Engineering is in the early stages, but Arnzen said the transportation department estimates the project will cost $19 million. Approximately 93 percent of the cost will come from the Federal Highway Administration, while the remaining 7 percent is state funding.

Department officials are planning to keep the bridge open throughout construction by moving traffic to one half of the bridge while work is completed on the other, then switching lanes for the next phase. The current narrow width will probably require the concrete guardrail to be removed so one half of the bridge will be wide enough for two lanes of traffic, Arnzen said.

The bridge is a popular pedestrian route between North Lewiston and the downtown area, and removing the guardrail and sidewalk will mean they can’t use the bridge. But the transportation department may use a shuttle to move pedestrians back and forth safely.

“Those are the kinds of details we’re going to investigate and have a lot more information in the future,” Arnzen said.

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2266.

If you go:

What: Open house about Clearwater Memorial Bridge construction

When: 4-7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Red Lion Hotel, 621 21st St., Lewiston

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