Friday, March 7, 2008

Salmon River bridge deemed safety hazard

Robinson Bar Bridge to get temporary replacement

Express Staff Writer

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is planning to replace the failing Robinson Bar Bridge, which spans the Salmon River 15 miles downstream from Stanley. It will be replaced with a temporary structure until a long-term solution is implemented.

The existing bridge was declared unsafe after an inspection by U.S. Forest Service structural engineers last fall and is now closed to all users. The bridge will be replaced as soon as possible, but likely not before October.

Installing a temporary "Bailey bridge" will allow access to campgrounds, trails and private property on the south side of the Salmon River while the Federal Highways Administration assesses the future of state Highway 75 through the area.

One alternative under consideration by the administration would relocate the highway to the south side of the river, eliminating the need for a bridge at the current location.

"A temporary bridge can be installed more quickly and at less cost than a permanent bridge that will become redundant if the highway is relocated," said Sawtooth National Recreation Area Ranger Sara Baldwin.

Baldwin said another Forest Service unit has agreed to loan the SNRA a temporary bridge that could be installed for roughly $200,000 and would provide access for five to 10 years. Funding for the temporary bridge will come from a regional program to address bridge issues of this nature.

"We're trying to do it as soon as possible, but in all likelihood it will be October," said project coordinator Jeb Wofford.

Wofford said the Forest Service campground serviced by the bridge is among the most popular in the Salmon River canyon.

Also, a special permit is being drafted to allow a private landowner to use the bridge for pedestrian access.

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