EUGENE, Ore. - The new southbound Interstate 5 Willamette Bridge was open to pedestrians for the first and only time last week.
At the opening ceremony before the tours of the bridge Aug. 18, Eugene Councilman Alan Zelenka said, “Without much ado, I’m going to go play on the freeway.”
Construction began in May 2009. Since then a work bridge was built, the original I-5 bridge was torn down and the new bridge was opened two months earlier than expected.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said the bridge required about 400,000 hours of labor.
"We are talking about the second busiest highway in America, the third busiest truck route in the country – a highway system that connects California, one of the largest economies in the world, Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Canada and this is an incredibly important route,” said Rep. DeFazio.
Part of building the new bridge was being environmentally conscious.
Rick Little of the Oregon Department of Transportation said, "The visual barrier that's on the current temporary bridge is actually old road signs or highway signs that were going to be discarded."
From the new bridge, event-goers could see the signs lining the temporary bridge.
Last week's ceremony marked a halfway point in the project. Construction on the Northbound bridge will begin soon. It is expected that some of the materials from the work bridge built under the Southbound bridge will be reused to build a new work bridge under the Northbound bridge.
“Once the work bridge is in place, crews will be ready to deconstruct the temporary structure and the northbound bridge will be built the same way as the southbound; from the river up,” said Sonny Chickering, the ODOT manager for the region that includes Lane County.
Eugene resident Rowan Willis, 5, was one of the people who got to walk across the bridge.
"It's like being on top of a car," Willis said.