Prineville’s old Elm Street bridge over Ochoco Creek is being demolished this week to make way for a new bridge that will help prevent flooding in the creek.

The original timber bridge, built in 1960, had wood pilings that blocked the flow of the creek and would collect debris floating in the water. The debris would then push water out of the creek, which would then threaten nearby homes and a fire station.

“Those pilings captured all of the debris,” said Eric Klann, city engineer.

The Elm Street bridge is one of eight city-owned bridges over Ochoco Creek. The other seven have already been replaced. Many of the bridges were damaged and fixed after a big flood in 1998, Klann said.

“The city had a horrible flood in 1998 and as part of the cleanup we were able to replace a good deal of our bridges,” Klann said. “Elm Street bridge was the last piling bridge.”

Prineville received grant money last year from the Oregon Department of Transportation to fund the $2.3 million project. ODOT covered about $2.1 million of the costs, and the city paid for the rest.

Klann said the bid for the work came in lower than expected, at about $2.03 million, so the remaining funds will go toward building a separate pedestrian bridge near the Elm Street bridge.

The pedestrian bridge will lead directly to a new splash pad in Prineville, Klann said.

Both bridges will be built at the same time and are scheduled to be complete by October.

The new Elm Street bridge will have two lanes for motor vehicles and bicycle and pedestrian lanes on each side.

In addition to the flooding concerns, the old wooden bridge was rotting in places and becoming a safety hazard, Klann said. The bridge could only handle 8 tons of traffic, down from close to 80 tons when it was first built, he said.

Replacing the old bridge has been a priority for the city for more than a decade. But the city needed the funding and had to wait for financial support from ODOT, which came through last year.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Klann said. “It will be a wonderful, beautiful facility for the community.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,