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beams

An aerial image showing the salvaged beams stored in an ODOT lot in Eugene. 

Klamath County Public Works is taking advantage of a rare opportunity to save a lot of money on bridge construction over the next decade.

A large bridge construction project in Eugene by the Oregon Department Transportation employed a temporary bridge to keep traffic running through the project.

Now that the temporary bridge has been dismantled, there are over 200 unused, massive beams. ODOT is offering the prestressed reinforced concrete and steel beams up to Oregon counties for free.

Klamath County is looking to take between 36 and 70 115-foot beams for bridges in Klamath County.

County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot said the offer from ODOT to take the beams for free is an opportunity to save a lot of money while investing in infrastructure at the same time.

The beams need to be transported from Eugene to Klamath Falls — no simple task. Each beam is 4-feet by 4-feet wide, the length of about eight cars parked end to end, and weigh 97,000 pounds.

Each beam will need a truck and pilot cars to transport, and a crane to load and unload.

The four counties that are taking advantage of the opportunity, Benton, Douglas, Tillamook and Klamath, will split the cost of a crane to load up the trucks in Eugene, but each county, including Klamath, will need to pay for a crane at their respective destinations to unload.

Public Works Director Jeremy Morris estimated transportation will cost between $500,000 and $1 million, depending on how many beams are purchased. The full cost to purchase new beams would be around $2.5 million according to Morris.

That’s a lot of money saved in the long run, considering the beams are being offered for free but usually cost about $60,000 each, plus the cost of transportation, according to Morris. He said Klamath County usually buys beams from a manufacturer in Eugene, so shipping costs are about the same.

“It is a good opportunity,” he said. “It’s a pretty large cost savings.”

The Ivory Pine Road Bridge over the Sprague River will be the first Klamath construction project to use the beams.

“We are starting the design and environmental permit process right now,” Morris said. He estimates that that project will be completed in 2021 or 2022. It will use 10 of the beams.

“We’re going to be performing significant repairs or replacement of a lot of bridges over the next 10 to 20 years,” Morris said. He said there are 12 bridges that could use the beams in the next 10 years.

Morris said the county has about $80 million in reserve for the road department, which is declining quickly due to the reduction in federal timber receipts declining dramatically over the past 30 years.

“It’s not uncommon for us to buy materials for future projects,” DeGroot said. “This is just another example of pre-paying for materials and getting great rates so that you can use those materials on future projects.”

“If we didn’t have that in a savings account because we had frugally expended funds in the past, we wouldn’t have this opportunity save millions of dollars today,” Morris said.