Work begins on $147M I-5 Willamette River bridge replacement

Work begins on $147M I-5 Willamette River bridge replacement »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. -- The largest bridge building project in Oregon history started Tuesday with a VIP-studded kickoff event.

After 3 years of planning, work has begun on the $147 million Interstate 5 Willamette River bridge replacement near Eugene, Ore.

"How about a nice oregon shout out for the great work being done by all those hard hats over there?" U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said at an event Tuesday.

Lawmakers say it's much more than concrete and rebar that taxpayers are getting for their money.

The Oregon Department of Transportation says just over 900 direct jobs will be created by the project, with another 965 indirect jobs.

Jobs aren't the only concern: bridge work is taking place in a waterway in Oregon. That means fish.

A machine "bubblelator" will help crews soundproof pile driving to protect fish.

Project managers say the 30,000-pound gizmo with white foam and pipes inside will keep the fish at peace.

Once a work platform is built, the heavy work begins in November.

"We're hoping that we can complete this southbound bridge and put traffic on it by spring of 2011," said Kevin Parrish with Hamilton Construction.

Northbound lanes will be open by the end of 2012.