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January closure for moving Sellwood Bridge affirmed

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - On an east-side temporary bridge girder, workers prepare the main span for the 'big slide' in January.Following the progress of the Sellwood Bridge reconstruction project on a weekly basis, it appeared to THE BEE as if the timetable for a mid-January closure of the bridge to move it onto the “detour bridge” pilings might be optimistic.

For example, an inspection of the project shows that the east side detour ramp hadn’t yet been connected with the highway as this issue of THE BEE went to press.

But, in speaking with Multnomah County’s project spokesman, Mike Pullen, we learned that the project is indeed on schedule.

“The tentative plan is to close the Sellwood Bridge to traffic on Thursday, January 10, and actually move the 1,100 foot long truss span on January 12th,” Pullen revealed.

“There is a possibility that it might be delayed for a week – which would mean closing the bridge to traffic on Thursday, January 17 and moving the span on January 19.” The east end of the bridge will shift north 33 feet; the west end will move north 66 feet.

Because it won’t take much longer than a day or two to shift the bridge span over, Pullen said, the question most asked of him is, “Why are you keeping the bridge closed for a whole week?”

The reason, he said, “Is that this is a very innovative construction technique – moving a truss span this long, this old, and this-often used. The contractors want to make absolutely sure it will be safe and usable before we open it to the public.”

As soon as the date is certain, and that should be before Christmas, they’ll post it on a banner across the bridge – giving motorists substantial advance notice of the bridge closure. Traffic is expected to be a challenge in Southeast Portland during that week.

Regarding financing, Multnomah County is working with contractors Slayden/Sundt regarding the final cost, and expects to sign a contract in January for the estimated $299 million project.

“All the work done up to now has been done under an earlier contract,” Pullen said.

There is a proposal to allow the City of Portland to pay a lower share if the price.

“It has been discussed between Mayor Adams and Chair Cogen,” Pullen said. “This will not increase the length of time the County charges the increased the Vehicle Registration Fee. City Council and County Board will both need to approve the change.”

THE BEE will be on-site for the “big slide” – the bridge will be slid sideways on rails by hydraulic jacks between the old piers and the new ones – but you can watch the bridge span move, from the comfort of your computer, by watching the two webcams focused upon it at its own website: www.sellwoodbridge.org