by: Alejandro Reyes Construction crews test a method of securing pilings into the floor of the Willamette River. The results, <i>THE BEE</i> was told, looked good.

Progress was made in October on the project to rebuild the Sellwood Bridge - in two areas: Approval of the current design elements, and testing before sinking the 'shoofly' detour bridge support pilings.

After many meetings of the Sellwood Bridge project's Community Advisory Committee (CAC) this year, and a presentation to the Public Stakeholder Committee (PSC) in September, the vote to approve the project's '60% Design Elements' took place on October 6.

All members of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners were on hand to vote on nine resolutions, but then Vice-Chair Deborah Kafoury and Chair Jeff Cogen excused themselves, citing the need to attend to 'personal business', immediately after joining in approving a proclamation of October 11 as 'National Coming Out Day' in Multnomah County.

With the gavel then handed to Commissioner Judy Shiprack, she and rest of the Commissioners - Loretta Smith and Diane McKeel - stayed for a brief recap of the project to date, provided by the Project Manager Ian Cannon.

After commending the work of the all-volunteer CAC and PAC groups, Cannon told the Commissioners that the project now includes a deck arch style, a compressed and signalized grade separated interchange, a concrete culvert over Stevens Creek, and stormwater treatment using bio-swales.

He also detailed the list of the CAC's recommended design elements - a gateway feature, clear marking of bicycle and pedestrian lanes, architectural lighting, belvederes and benches, aesthetic enhancements to the required fencing, and enhanced lighting.

'That's pretty much the design part,' Cannon summed up. 'The other part is the funding plan. The current project estimate is $268.8 million, which includes all of the elements I described. We currently have about a $22.7 million shortfall to be secured to build the project we've discussing.'

Cannon continued, saying that the PSC recommends continuing with the project design based on the $268.8 million package, and continuing to look for resources to fully fund the project. The funding to cover the deficit could come from an applied-for US Department of Transportation 'TIGER III Grant'.

'We're seeking $22.7 million; that application will be turned in by the end of October. The result of that [application] will be available in the early spring.'

When he reports back to the Board of Commissioners in Spring, 2012, Cannon said, 'We'll have a lot of information, refined estimates, and a better idea of what the funding situation is. The PSC recommends that if the funding gap remains, we will pursue an Interim Interchange Strategy which would be essentially keep the West End connection to Highway 43 as it is, with a few adaptations to the bridge. If the funding picture is significantly different, will be looking at what it takes to close that gap.'

With no comments or questions from the remaining three Commissioners, the matter went to a vote, and the Sellwood Bridge resolution R 12 was unanimously passed.

Meantime, in early October near the Sellwood Bridge, crews were testing a method of pile-driving.

'The purpose of the test,' explained the Project Spokesman Michael Pullen, 'is to determine if it's possible to install piles for the 'shoo-fly' detour bridge during the December permitted in-water window.'

Pullen explained that, due to the presence of certain fish species in the river, high-impact pile driving is prohibited most of the year. 'The plan is to use vibratory equipment to install the pile, and then apply a few pile hits at the end to make sure the pile is firmly installed - a method that is allowed during winter construction.

'In the summer in-water work period, fewer fish are present, so more of the conventional impact pile driving is permitted.'

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