Construction delays trigger a surprise McLoughlin closure
During the three weekends that the "OR 99E Paving Project: S.E. Harold Street to S.E. Harrison Street" project closed S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard, Sellwood and Westmoreland neighbors noticed a marked increase in vehicular traffic cutting through their neighborhood.
But, commuters driving into Portland on McLoughlin Boulevard on Wednesday morning, August 9 got an unpleasant surprise when two lanes – one northbound, and one southbound – were shut down from Tacoma to Harold Streets.
"This was not planned, expected, or permitted; the contractor is required to reopen all lanes by 5:00 a.m. on weekdays," remarked Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Region 1 Community Affairs Coordinator Lili Boicourt.
Apparently, crews had struggled to fill in a hole they'd dug as they were installing the new Crystal Springs Creek culvert sections – and that kept the travel lanes closed until about 10:00 a.m.
"Due to unexpected work issues, the contractor was not able to reopen the lanes on time," confirmed Boicourt. "We are very sorry about the inconvenience and the backups."
While rebuilding the shoulder and center sections of the state highway have gone pretty much according to plan, the work installing the new Crystal Springs Creek culvert sections has turned out to be challenging.
For example, ODOT Public Information Section Manager Dave Thompson looked into when the first section of the old, unstable Crystal Springs Bridge would be replaced with a new section of box culvert, under McLoughlin.
The contractors had told Thompson they estimated it would be lowered in place about noon on August 5. However, at that time, crews were still struggling to remove steel shoring plates. When THE BEE checked back in the afternoon, and then in the evening, that section of box culvert hadn't yet been placed.
The neighborhoods braced for an onslaught of traffic August 18-21, the last week the northbound roadway was scheduled to be completely closed to vehicles.
But, the work isn't finished. "In September, drivers can expect nighttime and weekend lane closures and shifts in traffic lanes," said ODOT's Katelyn Jackson. "There may be a need for another full northbound closure in September."
The project is expected to be completed in late December this year. And remember, the temporary lower construction zone speed limit is 35 MPH – heed it, or face a substantial fine.