Sunday, September 10, 2017

1917 History of Bridges Talks about Funding and Costs

Planked westside approach to first bridge of 1886, detail
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
This is the most comprehensive history I have seen of our first three bridges across the river, the bridges of 1886, 1891, and 1918.

September 8th, 1917
Sometimes a history suggests a comment on the present, but I'm not sure this one does. Conditions are different enough with funding, population, and transportation technology that I don't think there are really any direct and transferable lessons for our current bridge debate. Even with a little bit of Kingwood Park gridded with streets, West Salem was effectively totally rural. This article, then, is more for reference, a curiosity and footnote, than part of any argument we regularly make here against the Salem River Crossing. Maybe you will discern something or read it differently.

West Salem in 1917: Gridded a little, but not built up
Brush College, Chapman Corner, Eola are all rural places
(USGS historic maps)
The headline is about funding. Since the first bridge lasted only 4 years, and the second was hardly 25 years old, it's not so surprising they might not have been fully paid off. (Parallels here might be more like Courthouse Square.) As far as structures go, the Union Street Railroad Bridge of 1912 has been the enduring one.

Indirectly it is also interesting that Polk county opposed paying for a bridge. Note Asahel Bush's role in "bridge" financing! Perhaps if the very first bridge had been a toll bridge, development in West Salem would have been different and we would be having different conversations about "induced demand." In any case, the first bridge was free, and by a great margin, people continue to expect a "free" bridge.

(There are no illustrations with the article, and I have interpolated the map, several photos, and a traffic count that are not themselves part of the article.)
Story of Salem 's Bridges
$20,000 Owing on First;
$21,000 Due on Second One

The cost of building bridges across the Willamette at Salem is going up. The first bridge was built in 1886 and the cost was $49,901. It was built within the estimated cost.

The second bridge, built in 1890 cost $84,401. The estimated cost was $59,- The third bridge to be erected before August 1, 1918, will cost according to contract, $237,901.

Away back in 1870 there was considerable talk in Salem of building a bridge across the river at the foot of State street. A company was formed to build a toll bridge, but no action was taken. Salem then was a city or about 7,000.

On March 6, 1886, according to the minutes of the city council "a large and enthusiastic mass meeting of the citizens of Salem assembled for the purpose of devising means to build a bridge across the Willamette."
The Center Street site, 1917
A government engineer recommended Chemeketa street. Other interests wanted the bridge further north and Center street was chosen. Under the act of the legislature of October 21, 1876, the city council decided to submit the proposition of expending $30,000. A bridge committee was appointed of John H. Albert, chairman A. F. Wheeler and John Hughes.

Bonds Sold at Premium.

The committee working fast had secured bids from a San Francisco firm, with an estimate of $48,887. Salem was to pay $30,000. Marion county $15,000 and Polk county $5,000.

The city council submitted to the voters the proposition of voting to sell bonds for $30,000. The election held June 25, 1886 resulted as follows: First ward, 100 for and 3 against; second ward, 316 for and 7 against; third ward, 142 for and 9 against: fourth ward, 103 for and one against. Favoring the bond issue, 663, and those opposed, 20. Three blanks were cast.

John H. Albert as chairman of the council committee reported July 20, 1886, that a contract had been closed. On September 12, 1886, the records of the city council show that the $30,000 bonds bad been sold at a premium of $487.

About this time Senator Mitchell had congress pass a bill, "An Act of Congress Approved July 29, 1886, [entitled], An act authorizing the city of Salem to construct a bridge across the Willamette river." Plans were submitted to the council that the bridge had been accepted at a total cost of $49,901. The city recorder was authorized to collect $5,000 from Polk county.
First bridge of 1886, probably from Minto looking north
(Salem Library Historic Photos,
but mislabeled as second bridge of 1891)
Polk County Against It.

Polk county had held out on the bridge and would not come in with Salem and Marion county. But the citizens just across the river wanted a bridge and in order to hurry matters, a citizens meeting was held at Brush college and 22 citizens went on a note agreeing to pay Polk county's $5,000, provided their county court refused to pay the county's share. However, this was not necessary, as the city recorder reported December 7, 1886, Polk county had sent over a warrant for $5,000, but without endorsement. It was paid by A. Bush who sent it to the treasurer of Polk county for proper endorsement.

The city of Salem still owes $20,000 on that first bridge and is paying interest at 5 per cent. The bonds were refunded October 8, 1910 and will be due on October 8, 1920. [It looks like the City was paying 6% until they refinanced at 5% in October 1910.]

Bridge number two has been a hoodoo almost from the day of its completion. The City of Salem still owes $21,000 on bridge number 2. The bonds were refunded April 1, 1914, for $30,000 and within the past three years $9,000 has been paid. Hence on the two first bridges, Salem still owes $41,000 drawing interest at five per cent.
Ruins and Aftermath:
First Bridge of 1886
 Collapsed in Flood on February 3rd, 1890
Photo, Salem Public Library
Went Out in 1890.

The big flood was in early February 1890 when the first bridge went out. Water covered part of Salem known as Peppermint flats and came up on High street from Ferry as far as the court house. The citizens at once urged a new bridge. The Marion county court agreed to pay $10,000 on condition that Polk pay the same and that Salem pay the balance provided the rebuilding did not cost more than $40,000. If a greater sum was expended, each was to pay one third.

At the April term of the county court the bid of Hoffman & Bates of about $60,000 was accepted and contract awarded. Polk county was to pay $20,000 and $1 for each ton of rip rap. All materials of the old bridge were to belong to the contractors. Their bid was figured down to $59,557, and it was to be completed by December 1, 1890.

The city council in session on March 8, 1890, voted in favor of incurring an expense of $20,000 for the bridge, and a special election was called, resulting in a vote of 582 in favor of the bonds and 31 against.
Second Bridge of 1891 - a spindly thing!
 (Salem Library Historic Photos)
Completed in 1890.

The records of Marion county show that at the January term, 1891, $21,684 was paid as its share of the bridge.

By report of the engineer, the bridge was accepted by the county court January 1, 1891, but reference is made to the fact that the McCoy plan of pier had not been acceptable and that iron cylinder piers had been substituted.

A report on this second bridge to the county court, dated January 12, 1891, was to the effect that putting in the cylinder iron piers, extra concrete, tearing down of the old piers and cost and construction had brought the total cost of the bridge to $84,402.99.

Trouble began at once. In August of 1891 a bill was presented to Polk county for half of the repairs. In November of the same year viewers were appointed to estimate cost of additional repairs. In July of 1892, the county court accepted a bid of $2095 to re build the west approach. In July of 1905 the county commissioners of the two counties met to consider the condition of the bridge, and bids were asked for re-planking.

Present Bridge Condemned.

la June of 1907 the bridge was inspected again. In May of 1912 an engineering firm of Portland inspected as to its safety and in August of 1914 the state highway commission under H. L. Bowlby inspected. In October, 1915, H. W. Holmes of  the state highway commission and Henry W. Morse of Portland, inspected, and from all came the verdict that the second bridge had outlived its usefulness.
October 16th, 1916
Daily average crossings:
700 autos, 343 buggies and carts,
462 motorcycles and bikes and people on foot,
and yes 31 head of stock.
Acting on the last report, repairs were made. The two county courts on December 9, 1916, asked the state highway department to make an inspection. The verdict was that the bridge might fall at any time and this positive statement of the engineers, especially that of Mr. Weare, cause the two county courts to order the bridge closed at noon of January 11, 1917.

The third bridge now under construction will cost $237,901, and must be completed by August 1, 1918. Polk county will pay $41,000 and the balance by Marion county. Polk county has levied this amount and Marion county already has the money on hand. There will be no debt running on this third bridge.
Third Bridge of 1918, the river nearly frozen over in 1937
(Salem Library Historic Photos)


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I should have included this history written for the paper in 2013 by the Mill's curator.

"Bridging the Willamette River in Salem."

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's an interesting footnote on Polk County funding from September 27th, 1917:

"County to Get O. & C. Back Taxes
Polk county will come in for its share of the back taxes and penalties which the government will pay on the Oregon & California land located in this county. The total amount of back taxes due since 1913 is $43,082.40 and the interest and penalties attached amount to $7,397.30. This amount comes in handy at the present time as the county court can pay off their share of the cost of building the Salem bridge and still have money left for road work without going into debt."