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Construction begins on new Sellwood Bridge piers

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - This massive east-side work, extending halfway into the Willamette River, is on the temporary construction bridge which holds tons of heavy construction equipment.It was a beautiful day to be standing in the middle of the Willamette River – on Monday, May 20th, with Multnomah County Sellwood Bridge project spokesman Mike Pullen. We were looking at the work on the new Sellwood Bridge underway before us.

No diving gear was required. THE BEE was invited out to tour the east side “work bridge”, now bearing the load of heavy construction equipment twisting mid-river pier casings deep into the riverbed.

“Because there’s no pounding or vibration, oscillating the steel casings allows contractors to begin setting piers,” Pullen said, as a huge machine slowly rotated the project’s first in-river steel casing, back and forth.

As with a drill rig, after one section of casing has been forced into the river bed – the steel casings are wide enough to stand in – another section is hooked on top, and the process repeats. “When they reach bedrock, they’ll use a clam-shell scoop to remove the mud, lower in a steel rebar cage, and fill it with concrete.”

As we looked west, other contractors were beginning the process of cutting down the old Sellwood Bridge “bents”, or piers.

“It looks like they’re cutting out the center portion, like eating an Oreo cookie,” Pullen remarked. “Then, they’ll start on the outside of the piers, reinforced with rebar.”

As we strolled back to shore, Pullen pointed out that contractors were digging the foundation for “Bent 11”, to be the easternmost column of the bridge, on the south side of Tacoma Street, west of S.E. 6th Avenue. “Flaggers are directing traffic in this area during construction,” Pullen said.

Normal weekday work hours are 7 am to 6 pm. Night work continues on weeknights on the west side of Highway 43.

Learn more about the project – including views from their live webcam – by visiting their website: HYPERLINK "www.sellwoodbridge.org/" www.sellwoodbridge.org