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Sellwood Bridge, now its own detour, opens ahead of schedule

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Minutes after it reopens, afternoon rush hour resumes across the detour Sellwood Bridge. Many commuters couldn't wait for the bridge to reopen, and to relieve some of the traffic congestion its week of closure had created.After the move of the Sellwood Bridge, and after the crowds went home, contractors were still hard at work.

Omega Morgan crews removed their hydraulic jacks and other gear, while other construction crews attached the truss to the new detour bridge piers.

“The truss bearings aren’t welded to the piers,” project spokesman Mike Pullen explained.

At four of the five temporary piers, the truss bearings are held in place with guide bars, but are allowed to slide back and forth with Teflon pads riding on stainless steel sheets, as the truss expands and contracts due to temperature changes.

“On the center pier, steel guide bars are attached to the pier top bearings that surround the truss bearings, to keep them from moving in any direction,” Pullen added.

The bridge was still closed to traffic. Crawling over, under, and around the truss, an independent consulting firm’s crews inspected the structure to see if any damage had occurred during the move.

“This inspection team is very familiar with the Sellwood truss,” Pullen observed. “They’ve inspected it numerous times over the years, including a recent ‘pre-translation’ inspection, to establish a baseline for the post-translation inspection.”

At the same time, construction contractors worked nearly around-the-clock to attach the truss to the new east and west side approaches.

Surprising many, Pullen announced that the new detour bridge would open early – at 3:30 pm, on Wednesday afternoon, January 23.

Multnomah County District 1 Commissioner Deborah Kafoury was on hand, along with other County officials. She was to be the first to drive across the bridge.

“We’re really excited we’re able to open the bridge a day ahead of schedule,” exclaimed Kafoury. “The closure showed how important the Sellwood Bridge is to local traffic infrastructure.” That was an understatement, as commuters during the week the bridge was closed can attest – even the Clackamas County commuters, who account for over half the weekday traffic on the Multnomah County bridge, although they voted not to contribute anything to the cost of its replacement.

Kafoury reminded people that the bridge speed limit has been reduced to 25 mph. “Other than that, we don’t see any major change. And, People will be able to watch as the new bridge is being constructed.”

Asked if about she was worried about riding over the “detour bridge”, Kafoury responded, “I trust the folks who been working on this bridge who say that it will be safe.”

First in line to drive over the bridge after Kafoury was Sellwood Westmoreland Business Alliance President Tom Brown. “I'm excited that is opening a day early. It's pretty cool.”

Asked how area merchants weathered the bridge closure, Brown told THE BEE, “I think they well survived it. I was really surprised how busy it was last Saturday when they moved the bridge. [The SWBA hosted a party for viewers at the Oaks Pioneer Church on S.E. Spokane Street on Saturday, January 19.] I really haven't heard anybody complain.”

Is that the end of the Sellwood Bridge saga? Certainly not! Remnants of the old bridge are being removed -- and soon, building the new bridge will be underway. You’ll see it all right here in THE BEE.