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New, Improved, and Worth the Wait

The residents in the area were patient but greatful to cut down their commute times and use the bridge.

In December 2007, a devastating flood washed out the original Leudinghaus Bridge, which was built in 1922 and crossed the Chehalis River in rural Lewis County, Washington. Since then, residents of the unincorporated neighboring communities of Doty, Dryad, and Meskill, approximately 15 miles west of the city of Chehalis, have been anticipating its replacement. On 11 February 2016, their wish was realized with the grand opening of a new and improved Leudinghaus Bridge.

Relocated further upstream, about one-quarter of a mile away from the location of the original bridge, the new 200-foot-long bridge connects Hatchery Road, off State Route 6, with Leudinghaus Road. From a sight distance standpoint, the bridge’s new location is more favorable.

Although the new bridge was constructed at a relatively new location, some things do remain the same. When it came to design of the new bridge, the roadway profile could not be raised to maximize the debris clearance between the underside of the bridge and the flood elevation of the river, so the streel truss design was the most fitting—and the same design as the new bridge’s predecessor. Steel truss is a less common bridge design today—versus more modern bridge types, such as precast concrete—due to its high-maintenance requirements. It was the best option all around though for the new Leudinghaus Bridge and worth the wait for local residents.

The 2007 flood that demolished the original bridge during a severe winter storm was declared a major disaster by President Bush making construction of a new bridge eligible for federal funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The project, that had a nearly $6 million price tag and was primarily funded through FEMA, wasn’t approved until 2012, but despite the wait, locals welcomed the new, improved bridge with much fanfare at the bridge’s 11 February ribbon-cutting ceremony. More than 100 people attended the much-anticipated event, including the local antique car club with many members driving their vintage Fords and Chevrolets over the bridge. The maiden crossing, however, was reserved for a long-time resident who chose to walk her way across.

During the event, BergerABAM, prime consultant for the project who provided structural engineering and design, was recognized. Chuck Spry, BergerABAM project manager, and Bob Lee, BergerABAM construction manager, who attended the event describe the project as technically challenging and rewarding in the end and found working with Lewis County staff, who did the roadway engineering, to be a positive experience.