Work on Willamette River Transit Bridge began one year ago
by: JAMIE VALDEZ Workers prepare to lower a 75-foot rebar tube they call a cage into a shaft drilled into the floor of the Willlamette River. It and 11 other shafts will then be filled with concrete to support the coming transit bridge between South Waterfront and Portland.

TriMet marked the one-year anniversary of the beginning of major construction on the Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail line by inviting local reporters to watch some of the work on the Willamette River Transit Bridge being built in the South Waterfront area.

As reporters took notes, snapped pictures and rolled video, a giant crane lifted a 75-foot-long tube of rebar into position over a shaft that has been drilled 150 feet below the bottom of the west side river. The 10-foot-wide tube - which the workers call a cage - was connected to another one that was already in position, then both were lowered into the shaft. Sometime tomorrow the rebar-lined shaft will be filled with concrete.

The work is being done inside of a block-size section of the river that has been sealed off from water with steel walls, called a coffer dam. Six of the shafts are being drilled within the walls, and similar work is being done in a coffer dam near the east bank. When finished, the concrete pillars will be topped with more concrete, and they will serve as the two large piers that will hold the bridge over the river.

When it is completed and opened in 2015, the light-rail line will run 7.4 miles from the southern edge of Portland State University over the river to Milwaukie.

The entire project is budgeted at around $1.5 billion. Although TriMet faces a $12 million to $17 million gap in next year's budget, agency officials say the line is a good investment. TriMet is only paying around 5 percent of the cost. Half the money is coming from the federal government. The rest is coming from the state, Metro, Portland and Milwaukie.

The bridge is just one project under construction in South Waterfront. Reporters also walked past the early stages of the Collaborative Life Sciences Building being built by the Oregon University System and the Oregon Health and Science University. The $295 million project is the first building of the OHSU Schnitzer Campus planned in the area.

It will be built along the west bank of the river between the transit and Marquam bridges.

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