PORTLAND ATTORNEYS could do worse than specializing in bridge construction. Lately, big fixes to the spans this city relies on have attracted acrimony and legal bills.

Consider: Multnomah County is locked in a complex, many-tentacled lawsuit over the Morrison Bridge, which needs a brand-new surface just three years after officials spent more than $10 million giving it a new (and badly flawed) deck.

And last week, the enormous Sellwood Bridge replacement project spurred litigation of its own. The construction firm overseeing the work says the county won't pay the higher-than-expected costs of drilling deep beneath the Willamette. Meanwhile, the Oregonian revealed the project has crept quietly over budget, though experts say that potential 3 percent overrun is fairly standard and hardly concerning.

So it's worth paying attention to the latest multi-million-dollar bridge fix on the horizon—which county officials say they'll pursue outside the typical protocol of seeking the cheapest bid for the job.

Beginning next year, the county's going to replace four enormous wheels that help the arms of the Broadway Bridge lift and lower. Officials figure the replacement could cost up to $10 million, with about 90 percent paid with federal money.

In most instances, that would require the county to first design the wheel replacement project, then solicit bids, picking the lowest. But at a hearing on January 8, county commissioners indicated they'd veer from that process.