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Steel Bridge lower deck closed since Saturday – UPDATED

Posted by on August 12th, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Steel Bridge upper deck
The Steel Bridge’s upper-deck
sidewalk is one way to cross this evening.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Update:: The lower deck reopened before the evening rush hour on Aug. 13.

Update 6:30 a.m., Aug. 13: The lower deck remains closed on Tuesday morning. “I haven’t heard of any change yet,” spokeswoman Diane Dulken wrote. We’ve had no reply to our request for information from Union Pacific. Watch PBOT’s Twitter account for possible updates. Original post follows.

Update 6:30 a.m., Aug. 13: The lower deck remains closed on Tuesday morning. “I haven’t heard of any change yet,” spokeswoman Diane Dulken wrote. We’ve had no reply to our request for information from Union Pacific. Watch PBOT’s Twitter account for possible updates. Original post follows.

People crossing the Steel Bridge by bike and foot Monday evening should take the upper-deck lane or sidewalk or reroute to another bridge, Portland Bureau of Transportation spokeswoman Diane Dulken said Monday afternoon.

The lower deck has been closed since Saturday evening, when a set of cameras that monitor the crossing stopped functioning, Dulken said. The cameras are owned and controlled by Union Pacific Railroad, she said, which has not informed the city of the cameras’ status.

“We don’t manage the cameras, so we’re not quite sure what’s going on,” Dulken said.

The cameras need to work, she said, because they prevent the Steel Bridge’s controller from closing the lower deck’s gates and activating a bridge lift while people are still between the gates.

The Steel Bridge is jointly operated by the city, ODOT and Union Pacific Railroad, with the city handling the gates and approaches, an on-site ODOT worker controlling the bridge lifts and Union Pacific controlling the cameras.

“We want to open up that pathway as soon as possible,” Dulken said.

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  • Anne Hawley August 12, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    I hit the closure this morning. The sign at bottom of the Eastbank ramp suggesting use of the upper deck, was an unwelcome surprise. A sign at the TOP of the ramp would have been significantly more helpful.

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  • MeghanH August 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    I made a spur of the moment decision to ride the eastbound top deck sidewalk last Friday (first time ever) and it was a tad hairy. It’s narrower than I ever realized! Luckily I encountered no pedestrians…

    Also, users of that sidewalk should watch out for blackberry brambles and a very uneven sidewalk just after exiting the bridge. (I almost biffed it when my tire rubbed up against the buckled sidewalk seam there.)

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  • Case August 12, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    News flash! PBoT issues statement concerning the state of roads and accessibility in Portland. “We’re not quite sure what’s going on.” :) The no signage closure this morning was annoying, but knowing it’s been closed since Saturday and there was no rush hour signage makes me a little disappointed, considering this is a major transportation link for bikes and peds to cross the river safely.

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    • Paikikala August 13, 2013 at 8:58 am

      None of the bridges over the Willamette are owned by PBOT. The Steel Bridge is owned by the railroad. The Freeway bridges by ODOT, and all the rest by the County. The new one for trains, peds and bikes might be the first over the river under City control, but even that’s questionable.

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  • Joseph E August 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I rode the top deck eastbound on Sunday. Traffic was light, so I made it thru the narrow section without any cars tailgating me. It’s nice, when traffic is light; I would advise taking the roadway, rather than the narrow sidewalk, if you feel comfortable.

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  • Vinny August 12, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    In situations like this I always find myself wondering if this would be acceptable if it was a car lane. What would be the city’s response then? What would be the reaction if Diane made this statement:

    “People crossing the Steel Bridge Monday evening should reroute to another bridge. The bridge has been closed since Saturday evening, when a set of cameras that monitor the crossing stopped functioning. We don’t manage the cameras, so we’re not quite sure what’s going on.”

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    • Reza August 12, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      It’d be kind of like if Union Pacific trains were at a standstill near the Brooklyn Yard, blocking car, bike, ped traffic at SE 11th/12th south of Division with impunity…Oh wait, they do that already? Dang.

      Union Pacific is accountable to very few, and the City of Portland is not one of those entities.

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      • Paikikala August 13, 2013 at 9:00 am

        The railroad was there first, before the road, so most of the Portland roads that cross tracks do so on an easement, e.g., with the permission of the railroad.

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    • Spiffy August 12, 2013 at 10:02 pm

      And of course the Road Closed signs would be hung on the crossing guards of the bridge and not in advance to give motorists any warning of the closure.

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  • Erinne August 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    We rely on the lower deck because we haul our dog in daily. It’s really infuriating that it’s been closed since SATURDAY and they haven’t been able to figure out how to alert people before they descend down to find the gate closed. That would not be acceptable if it was for car traffic. But whoever is in charge of this closure at PBOT obviously doesn’t give a lick about bike riders or pedestrians.

    Had I not been riding a cargo bike, I would have jumped the gates with my bike. Their cameras are broken, who the heck’s gonna find out?

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  • Ted Buehler August 12, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Steel Bridge upper deck sidewalks are not suitable for bicycling — far too narrow to permit safe passage. Bikes require a minimum of 4′ width. If you’re a skilled rider you can make do with less, but on the Steel Bridge sidewalk there’s no margin of error, and any twitch can bump you into the [substandard] railing posts, launch you over the [substandard] low railing and 85′ down into the Willamette River.

    Best to simply take the lane. I do it regularly, just hang all the way on the right as you’re going up to the main span, slow down a bit toward the top to rest up, and wait for a gap in cars. Then scoot out into the middle of the lane and ride at your fastest comfortable speed across the main deck. I take the lane all the way to the bottom on the steep downgrade westbound, and scoot back to the right curb on the downgrade eastbound.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Ted Buehler August 12, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    &, as always, remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Think bikes and ped traffic warrants enough importance for PBOT to put up marked detours, as a matter of course, when a thoroughfare is closed? Let them know.


    Ted Buehler

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  • Kevin Wagoner August 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I take the road when I ride going north crossing west to east (like today). I find the sidewalk too narrow for bike + people. I run this area a lot too and find that many cyclist don’t slow down for a runner on their way down which is a bummer. I stayed on the east side to Sellwood on the way home which was great.

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  • Spiffy August 12, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    it’s about a mile and a half to detour from the east gate up over the top deck and back down to the west gate… two tenths of a mile more the other way…

    a THREE MILE commute detour FOR DAYS because nobody knows who to call for a status on the cameras? seriously?!

    granted, if you know about the detour in advance of the gates then you can plan accordingly to not ride as far… I assume they didn’t put up detour signs…

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  • RS August 13, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    On the East side, there is a set of lights at the crossing with Oregon street that flashes when the lower deck is closed, and it is operational. However, if you are coming from the south (Lloyd Blvd), you’re out of luck until you get to a spot where you can see over and check to see if the gate is closed. It’s quite irritating.

    And of course this wouldn’t be acceptable if it were a car lane that was interrupted.

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  • q`Tzal August 13, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    PBOT: Doh!

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  • Chris September 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    my daughters ex was found by this bridge on Sat 9/1.. they r saying its a suicide. we don’t think it is! we are all so devistated!! if anyone knows anything or saw him around that time, please let us know. his name is Daniel Fuller, 22 of W. Covina, Ca. Ty anything is very much appreciated.

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