Walking the Whilamut Passage - 'It's once in a lifetime chance'

EUGENE, Ore. -- The I-5 bridge project over the Willamette River was finally completed and on Saturday the community got a chance to test it out.

For many it was a celebration, as construction crews completed their work ahead of schedule and under budget.

City officials threw a welcoming party of sorts, letting the public see the Whilamut Passage Bridge before it opens to northbound traffic on Interstate 5 bridge late Thursday night.

Esther Stutsman, a guest speaker at the even said the name comes from a Kallapooa word meaning "where the river ripples and runs fast".

"We're bringing back the spirit of the Kallapooa people to the Willamette Valley," said Stutsman.

Gregory Richeerich, who frequently jogged along the Willamette River trails and watched the construction, joined hundreds of other Eugene/Springfield residents in walking across the Whilamut Passage Bridge before it is opened to traffic.

"It's once in a lifetime chance, because next week it's going to be different," said. Richeerich. "We've been watching it season after seasons, so it's exciting that it's done."