Bridge of the Gods limits send fewer trucks than expected to HR Bridge

When the Port of Cascade Locks announced in July that the Bridge of the Gods would have its weight limit reduced from 40 to 8 tons — effectively banning all truck traffic from crossing the bridge — the news immediately raised a red flag at the Port of Hood River.

In a story that ran shortly after the new weight limits went into effect, Port of Hood River Executive Director Michael McElwee said he was “concerned” about how the restrictions would impact the Hood River Bridge due to the increase in truck traffic the bridge was likely to experience.

Last week, the Port of Hood River released its August bridge crossing data, which showed that more trucks are indeed crossing the Hood River Bridge due to the Bridge of the Gods restrictions, but the percent increase in truck traffic was not nearly as high as port officials expected. Port of Hood River Finance Manager Fred Kowell said only around 7 or 8 percent of the 6.2-percent increase in truck traffic the Hood River Bridge experienced in the month of August could be attributable to diversions from the Bridge of the Gods.

“We were all surprised,” he said. “Seven to 8 percent? That’s nothing. I was thinking it would be 30 to 40 percent.”

According to the data, the Port of Hood River logged 369,987 total crossings over the Hood River Bridge for the month of August 2013 — a 2.5-percent increase over August 2012, which Kowell said was close to the average increase in traffic the bridge sees every year. Because of the seasonal nature of traffic on the Hood River Bridge, Kowell said the port compared August 2013 data to August 2012 numbers instead of comparing August 2013 figures to July 2013 figures.

Of those 369,987 crossings, 7,812 were made by vehicles with three axles or more, which Kowell characterized as “definitely a cutoff” for vehicles that would not currently be allowed on the Bridge of the Gods. That marks an increase of 454 vehicles or 6.2 percent when compared to August 2012 figures.

However, data from the Port of Cascade Locks, which was provided by the Port of Hood River, demonstrates that the Bridge of the Gods experienced a decrease of 3,700 three-axle-plus vehicles last month compared to August 2012 numbers. With an increase of only 454 three-axle-plus vehicles on the Hood River Bridge, Kowell interpreted the data to mean that most trucks and other heavy vehicles that can’t cross the Bridge of the Gods aren’t crossing the Hood River Bridge, as was previously expected. Moreover, Kowell noted the 454-vehicle increase in truck and heavy vehicle traffic isn’t necessarily wholly attributable to Bridge of the Gods weight restrictions.

Where have the trucks gone, then? Kowell wasn’t exactly sure.

“I don’t know the psychology of it, but I know the numbers,” he said.

The original weight restrictions on the Bridge of the Gods are supposed to be restored by the end of the year pending the completion of the repair and the replacement of dozens of gussets and stringers on the 87-year-old structure. With narrower lanes that experience more than double the amount of traffic that the Bridge of the Gods does annually, the 89-year-old Hood River Bridge isn’t an ideal alternative for all truckers to use. Kowell said it “would be bad” if even the modest increase in heavy vehicle traffic the Hood River Bridge is currently experiencing were to continue for longer than a year, causing bridge maintenance projects to commence sooner than expected.

“What it means is the fatigue factor of the metal on the bridge speeds up,” he explained. “What that is that the bridge isn’t going down; it just increases the overall lifespan of the bridge.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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