Sellwood Bridge Update- Looking forward after the Clackamas vote

Last month’s vote by Clackamas on the Sellwood Bridge funding measure was a blow, but the Bridge Replacement project is slowly grinding on.  We went to an informational meeting held at SMILE (Sellwood Moreland Improvement League) in which the County explained the current state of the project to interested neighborhood members.  Here’s some of the notes…

The meeting was hosted by Mike Pullen, the public affairs coordinator for Multnomah County.  Mike’s been on the project since the beginning, keeping everyone posted on progress.  Representatives from the construction contractors were there as well.

The $22 million from Clackamas County was a one-shot possibility, and it almost certainly won’t be revisited.  Funding breakdown is as follows…

  • $127 million – Multnomah County VRF ($19 per year vehicle registration fee)
  • $80 million – City of Portland (new revenues from the Oregon Jobs and Transportation Act)
  • $30 million – State of Oregon (Jobs and Transportation Act) for Highway 43 interchange
  • $11 million – Previously secured federal funds remaining after planning phase
  • $22 million – Clackamas County VRF ($5 per year vehicle registration fee)
  • $20 million – Federal funds (requested)

The County will continue with the bridge replacement despite the loss of the Clackamas County money.  They are too far along, and the bridge replacement is too important, to stop.

Bridge project timeline is as follows…

  • Planning- 2001-2009
  • Design and Preparation- 2010-2011
  • Construction- 2012-2015

We are currently on track with this schedule.

Here are some of the things coming up through the summer…

June– County will be asked to aprove construction and land-use permits and to pick the option for the detour bridge (more below)

Summer–  Final permits will issue.  County will execute purchases of land for project.  Late summer/fall range will see 60% design completion

Fall and Winter– Final funding in place from all sources.  In-water construction begins December 2011, continues through July 2012.

The original construction plan called for building the new bridge while the old bridge remained open.  The idea was to build the south half of the bridge while traffic was routed onto the north lane of the existing bridge.  Then, when the south part was complete, traffic would be routed onto the south part while the north half of the bridge was built.  When the north part was complete, a closure would occur while the old bridge was removed and the two new halves are seamed together.

There were several problems with this approach:

  • Both the southern and northern halves need to be strong enough to support the traffic flow while the other half is built.  This essentially means building two bridges.
  • Temporary work platforms need to be constructed on both sides of the bridge.  This means more in-water work (with the associated environmental damage) as well as expense.
  • Construction crews would be exposed to increased danger while in close proximity to the traffic flow

The new plan, the “Shoo Fly” option (See our April Sellwood Bridge Update), relieves many of these problems.  In the Shoo Fly, temporary supports would be built 40 feet north of the existing bridge.  Then, the existing bridge would be cut and slid over onto the new supports to be a temporary bridge while the new bridge is constructed in its final position.  The old bridge and temporary supports would be destroyed when the new bridge is complete.  This has several advantages over the original plan.

  • It would be a much faster technique, resulting in time savings (good for the neighbors) and cost savings (good in light of the Clackamas shortfall).  Using the Shoo Fly technique could cut ONE FULL YEAR off the final construction time.
  • It wouldn’t require construction of the temporary platforms, again resulting in time and cost savings and less environmental impact.
  • There would be less danger to the construction crews because they would never be in the traffic flow

Of course, the Shoo Fly comes with its own set of problems. In this case, it has to do with the temporary approaches that would be required to access the relocated Sellwood Bridge while the new one is built.  The County Commissioners will decide between the competing Shoo Fly options later this month.

Along with our concern as a Sellwood neighbor, you might imagine we have some concerns as one of the closest businesses to ground zero.  We asked the contractors what steps they will be taking to ensure that our clients have continued easy access to our shop.  They said they would be taking extra care, operating so closely to homes and businesses, to keep the access clear.

There will be closures of the bridge, although they will be brief and sporadic.  The contractors said that a well-informed public is an easy public to work with, so on all their projects they make sure that they are in constant communication with anyone who may be affected by their work.  They promised to give us (and everyone else) at least a 1-week notice before a closure.

One idea we brought up was a real-time web cam positioned to see the bridge during construction.  One of the contractors said this was now standard-operating-procedure for all their projects, so you can expect one for the Sellwood.  It will have a feed to the County’s project website, and we’ll have a link on ours as well.

We know that the Bridge project is critically important for the safety and development of the whole region.  We also know that it will be inconvenient for our clients and ourselves while it’s being built.  As the construction gets closer, we’ll continue to keep you updated so you know how it will affect you.  We’re also considering several things we can do do minimize the impact for our valued clients.  We’ll be asking you for input on our ideas, or any you might have yourself, in the months to come.  Until then, watch this space for the latest on our shabby neighbor!

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