by: DAVID F. ASHTON - From inside and out, Sellwood Bridge project workers tie off and install spacers on the rebar bundle soon to be encased in concrete that will become a ramp support.The Sellwood Bridge construction project’s general contractor, the Slayden-Sundt Joint Venture, worked with their team of sub-contractors to complete a number of important tasks during the 2013 in-water work period, now ended.

“Due to the presence of protected migratory fish species in the Willamette River, federal rules require most in-water construction activities to take place in the summer and early fall, when the fish are not migrating in the river,” explained Multnomah County Sellwood Bridge spokesman Mike Pullen, while standing on the east-side work bridge.

The progress made so far is unlike what will be seen next year, Pullen said – when massive columns begin to rise, and the first spans will be installed.

Some of the accomplishments of this year’s in-water work period include:


  • Old Bridge: Removed two piers down to the river bottom, and removed two piers on the east and west banks. The contractor will remove the top part of the remaining river pier this fall, and leave the lower portion as a barrier to protect the detour bridge.


  • West Work Bridge: Installed piles and decking to complete the west work bridge, and installed piles for several finger piers off the work bridge that will support construction of the main arch spans in 2014.


  • East Work Bridge: Installed finger piers off the main work bridge to support construction of arch spans in 2014.


  • River Piers: Installed the eight foundation shafts that will support the two river piers of the new bridge (four for each pier).  These were installed to depths ranging from 120 to 160 feet BELOW the river bottom.


  • Site Protection: Installed piles for floating booms on each side of the main channel, to protect the work bridges from floating debris.

    After walking out to the end of the east side work bridge, Pullen pointed down at the four foundation shafts that were sunk into the river. “This fall and winter, perched box caissons will be built at the top of the foundation shafts to support the arch spans,” Pullen said. “Workers will lower down a form into the river, and pour in concrete to form the pier that will accept the steel arches supporting the bridge deck.”

    Yet another traffic change is coming to Highway 43, Pullen added ruefully.

    “Currently, there is a northbound lane of Highway 43 that ducks underneath the bridge approach for through traffic going from Lake Oswego north to downtown Portland,” Pullen said. “That lane is getting closed, and we will install a temporary signal at the west end of the bridge. All traffic crossing the bridge and going north, as well as northbound Highway 43 traffic, will be controlled by that signal.” You have been warned.

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