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A Seat in the House

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A Seat in the House

Not worried about the Walking Bridge

Several people have expressed concern with the future of the Long Bridge across the Pend Oreille River as a result of articles in the Bonner County Daily Bee discussing the future of the highway bridge and the adjacent walking bridge. Before addressing this issue however, let me summarize the history of our bridges in this area.

The first pilings for the first bridge connecting Sagle with Sandpoint were driven on May 26, 1908. The bridge was completed on March 11, 1910 and became known as the longest wooden bridge in the world. 

This bridge was replaced with a second bridge built during the Great Depression and was dedicated on March 3, 1934. The 1934 bridge was built with help from the Works Progress Administration, not unlike road projects being funded today with “economic stimulus” funding.

The third bridge was finished in 1956 but could no longer be called “the longest wooden bridge in the world” because the length of the actual bridge was shortened by using fill and was a steel and concrete structure.

The fourth bridge—the one still in use today—was dedicated on September 23, 1981 and was built in parallel with the third bridge that is now dedicated to pedestrian and bicycling traffic and used extensively by both local citizens and tourists.

The third bridge has become an important asset in our area and any plans that would eliminate pedestrian and bicycling access from Sandpoint to the southern shore of Pend Oreille would be met by significant opposition from many, including your state senators and representatives from legislative districts one and two. 

Because of the concern resulting from the Daily Bee articles I asked the Idaho Department of Transportation to provide me information on the future of these transportation facilities and was provided the following information:

The environmental impact statement for the North/South Route project that resulted in approval and construction of the Sand Creek Byway was divided into four segments: the Sand Creek Byway, the Sandpoint to Kootenai Cutoff, the Long Bridge and the Long Bridge to Sagle segments. 

The Idaho Department of Transportation was hoping to construct the Sandpoint to Kootenai Cutoff project as soon as funding could be obtained. However, the environmental impact statement for the North/South Route project (Byway) was challenged in court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the environmental work must be completed on all segments before construction could begin on any of the remaining segments. 

Because the Department has been pursuing funding for the Sandpoint to Kootenai Cutoff in the hope of beginning construction of this project as soon as possible to complement the Byway project, it had to address the south bridge facilities even though it has no immediate plans for doing anything with the current bridges. This has led to the concerns expressed by several over the long-term availability of the walking bridge. 

However the Department does have long-term plans to at some time “expand the Long Bridge corridor by replacing both bridges with a wider structure that will accommodate motorized vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.”

Because the walking bridge was constructed in 1956 it could be determined that it should be listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places. As a result, since any long-range plan to “widen the current structure” may impact the walking bridge, the ITD as a part of the 4f process used for approval of the Byway, “is required to notify any responsible parties willing to take over ownership of the bridge, and to maintain the integrity in its current location.” 

As a result of my request for information the Department has assured me that:

“Nothing is going to happen to the walking bridge until a project is identified and funding secured for a bridge replacement project. No project is currently being developed, nor is it in any long-range plan at this time. The purpose of any future Long Bridge widening project is to increase the transportation capacity of the system by adequately accommodating both vehicular and non-vehicular transportation, replacing the two current structures with one single structure.”

Given the information I received from the Department I believe that in reacting to the concerns for the two bridges across the Pend Oreille River that: 1) there is no long-term plan for the bridges that has any funding possibility any time in the foreseeable future and 2) any project that will be undertaken in the future will include accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Thanks for reading and as always please contact me with issues of concern to you. My home phone is 265-0123 and my mailing address is P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho 83865.

George

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Author info

Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

Tagged as:

Politics, Sandpoint, history, bypass, transportation, Long Bridge, walking bridge

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