Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Steel Bridge lower deck closes due to bad gate motor – UPDATED

Posted by on July 31st, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Steel Bridge closure-5

Closure likely to remain in effect
until Wednesday night.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has announced that as of about 10:00 pm tonight (Saturday), the gates that close during bridge lifts on each end of the lower deck of the Steel Bridge are closed to all traffic. PBOT hired electricians to analyze the problem on Sunday and they have determined that the culprit is a bad motor on one of the gates. Since the part is not on-hand, PBOT says they’ll have to order it which means the gates — and lower deck bridge access — will be closed until Wednesday afternoon (8/4) or Thursday morning..

According to a traffic alert issued by PBOT at 10:06 pm on Saturday, the bridge operator closed the gates because of safety concerns: “The four automatic lift gates are not closing completely, which creates a hazard for pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the bridge.”

Steel Bridge closure-2

The scene during last
Wednesday’s closure.

The Broadway Bridge to the north remains closed due to streetcar construction, so the upper deck of the Steel Bridge — either on the sidewalks or taking the lane on the bridge roadway — is the preferred route until the issue is resolved. The Burnside Bridge to the south might also be a good alternative.

Steel Bridge closure-1

Crowds on the narrow upper deck sidewalk.

This sounds very similar to a problem with the gates that caused them to be closed last Tuesday night. That closure lasted from about 10:30 pm until about 1:00 pm the following day. Many people were not aware of the closure and no signs were erected to tell people to use an alternate route. Also, traffic was heavy on the narrow sidewalks on the upper deck of the bridge which were shared by people jogging, walking and biking.

We’ll keep you posted if/when the problem gets figured out and the gates are re-opened.

UPDATE, Monday 8/2 at 5:35pm: The lower deck has been re-opened. Here’s the latest from PBOT:

Portland Bureau of Transportation:  STEEL BRIDGE LOWER DECK RE-OPENED – Effective immediately, the lower deck of the Steel Bridge is open. The malfunctioning motor identified by electricians on Sunday was replaced today by a re-built motor provided by Metro Security Access Control. The lower deck is now accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists on each end of the bridge.
Because the motor replaced today is just one of the four original motors powering the gates on the lower deck, PBOT is working on a plan to replace all of them so that this problem does not continue.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • K'Tesh August 1, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Said it once… I’ll say it again…

    This is fun… NOT!

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  • hey marcus, take some downers... August 1, 2010 at 1:29 am

    umm I think I saw this article last week… The gates never seemed that big, any reason why people can’t go over them if the want…safety wise? Also why can’t they be stuck open instead of closed, I think people can hear the horn and stay off when it lifts… Force em open and leave the bridge open.

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  • Michael M. August 1, 2010 at 6:10 am

    Sigh. Well, I’ve been taking the Burnside to the westside since the B’way closure, so today I guess it’s time to try it the other direction. All this time spent on NE Sandy is forcing me into the ‘strong & fearless’ category!

    I had the impression the problem with the gates was heat-related, but yesterday was not particularly hot. Perhaps that was just speculation? I hope they figure out what’s going on, and fix it for good.

    Thanks for the update.

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  • Red Five August 1, 2010 at 7:38 am

    London is burning!

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  • Elliot August 1, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Déjà vu!

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  • Jimmy P August 1, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Something is seriously wrong. About two weeks ago, the Steel Bridge gates wouldn’t open. A boat passed through in the morning, and after the bridge lowered, the gates just stayed closed.

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  • bjorn August 1, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Why can’t the city just leave the access open? Even in this sue happy country it would seem that a gate that is almost closed combined with a loud horn and a clearly not there bridge should be plenty of warning to everyone. The burnside bridge for example has arms that come down when it lifts but if you really wanted to you could walk/ride right by them. Closing the bridge is an overreaction.

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  • noah August 1, 2010 at 10:19 am

    That is some fine guerrilla artwork on the closed gate. That take, society!

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  • noah August 1, 2010 at 10:20 am

    That take, dyslexia!

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  • maxadders August 1, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Ummmmmm, #7: Leaving the gates open would be fine, until a lower deck lift. Then there’d be a big gap in the safety fence. People could fall in, or get injured by the walkway as it descends. I’d rather close the bridge than see injuries!

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  • Mindful Cyclist August 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    If it is left open, someone will try to beat the lift and get hurt. And run over a ped doing it for good measure while getting caught in the part that lifts. I think it is a good idea they leave it closed until it’s fixed. I don’t want to read a stroy on here about it!

    Here is an alternative I found due to all these closures if you will in NE that I accidently found: Davis from 12th to Grand is through street that is all downhill. Watch for Franz trucks beteen 11th and 12th, but after that take Davis to 6th and cut over to Couch to miss all the traffic, narrow streets and stop lights.

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  • Mindful Cyclist August 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Dang, make that “read a story” and “if you live in NE.” Should have just turned on the computer instead of using the phone.

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  • bjorn August 1, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    @10 Except that you would have to squeeze around an almost closed gate (one foot wide) while horns were going off indicating a gate closure. Then you would have to ride your bike right off the end of the bridge into the willamette. Anyone who actually was hurt would be a darwin award nominee immediately. This closure is totally unnecessary there is no danger to anyone with half a brain.

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  • suburban August 1, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    WW Grainger opens early on Monday

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  • sabernar August 1, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    I don’t understand why people feel the need to complain about this? How petty are you? Just deal with it. Sheesh.

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  • trail user August 1, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Bunny hop. It’s just a bump.

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  • because it is ridiculous August 1, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    @14 does anyone really believe that if the burnside bridge had one of the gate arms that prevents cars from going through broken so that it only went 80% of the way down that they would close down the entire bridge in both directions for car traffic 24/7? They need to use some common sense here and reopen the bridge with some signage warning people not to proceed if the gates are mostly closed.

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  • resopmok August 2, 2010 at 1:14 am

    The Morrison connects directly to the Esplanade on the east side. If you use the Steel for your commute, you’re not going fast to begin with, and I doubt will mind having to wait at Naito for the crosswalk.

    And yeah, let’s whine a little more about it. Things break and need to be fixed sometimes. At least they are working to remedy the problem soon – more than many other cities would do for such a facility. And you darn well better believe the city is not leaving itself liable with the gates open. Yeah, any idiot could climb over it, but any idiot could jump off the Fremont too, if they wanted.

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  • Red Five August 2, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Why doesn’t Sam Adams DO SOMETHING about this?!

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  • thefuture August 2, 2010 at 6:38 am

    Unless you’re comfortable taking the lane on the upper deck of the steel bridge you best avoid it all together and take the burnside bridge for now. The walkway on the upper steel bridge is super narrow, and with the crush of morning commute its going to be bad news.

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  • eric August 2, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Took the upper deck of the steel. Had no problems with cars, but had to sit in traffic for a light cycle.
    I’m not willing to ride on the narrow sidewalk: Traffic is safer.

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  • Rita August 2, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Re: “This closure is totally unnecessary there is no danger to anyone with half a brain.” and similar.

    The only problem is that while the majority of the BikePortland-reading audience may have at least half a brain; there is far too large a segment of the Portland population that does *NOT* have half a brain.

    Just think of all the iPod-engrossed people who nearly get themselves run over by busses. Without the visual of a completely closed gate, some numbnut WILL try to go through. And in today’s lawsuit-happy society, someone (or their lawsuit-happy next-of-kin,) will file a lawsuit.

    Oh, do I wish it were unecessary to inconvenience so many to stop the stupid few, but sadly it is.

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  • are August 2, 2010 at 9:09 am

    red five, i am curious. you post upbeat, snarky comments to a page you know is read by a lot of people whom you disagree with, sort of a lighthearted trolling you might say, and you link your e-mail address to your identifier. what i am curious about is whether you are actually getting some substantial offlist response? or is this a question i should ask offlist?

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  • JustAnotherPedeler August 2, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Please leave the sidewalks over the steel bridge to pedestrians. Today I watched a poor little old man almost get hit by a cyclist. Just not enough room and we shouldn’t be doing it anyway.

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  • hmm... August 2, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I was at the Steel bridge around 9:30am this morning (Monday 8/2) and the *upper deck* was raised, with all traffic waiting.

    My understanding was that the upper deck only needs to be raised for the largest ships during fleet week and other than that it stays down, can anyone confirm that?

    I didn’t see any river traffic and assumed it was some kind of testing. I left the Steel and took the Burnside into downtown. As I crossed the Burnside I could see the Steel upper deck coming down.

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  • Madeye August 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    I noticed signs (I counted three) before even going down the ramp to the Steel Bridge this morning, and I believe this is in large part due to the rally cry made by BikePortland and its readers. Go, Jonathan! Thanks! I have been taking the Hawthorne as an alternative since I head all the way to South Waterfront.

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  • rrandom rider August 2, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    After seeing the signs referenced in post #24 (good job PBOT), I swung over and took the southern sidewalk. It was a terrible ride.

    There was a stack of cyclists, which is ok, but the lead one kept stopping and walking her bike every time she approached a pedestrian or another bike going either direction. This made everyone behind her have to essentially just scoot on their bikes as well. I’m not mad at her- if she didn’t feel competent to ride past these impediments than walking her bike was safer for everyone rather than risking a collision. But it was a bit frustrating.

    Plus, there were two cyclists working on doing some kind of bike repair (and blocking 3/4 of the path width) near the center of the span.

    All this was around 7:00 a.m., which is a lighter traffic time. There is no way I am going to try this again, especially during the 5:00 afternoon rush. I will take the lane and hope for the best.

    Let’s all take a deep breath and exercise a little extra patience towards each other and everyone else on the road as we deal with yet another commuting challenge.

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  • GLV August 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    My understanding was that the upper deck only needs to be raised for the largest ships during fleet week and other than that it stays down, can anyone confirm that?

    I think that by law it has to open whenever a boat needs it to open.

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  • Bob August 2, 2010 at 3:26 pm
  • 151 August 2, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Bunny hop. It’s just a bump.

    “When I see an adult bunnyhop on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.”

    –A man far wiser than myself.

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  • Red Five August 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm


    I’m your friend. I have multiple bikes and love to ride. I get lots of spam!

    Stay in drugs, and don’t do school!

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  • Seth Alford August 2, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    I see in the article above that the gates are fixed and the path is re-opened. This is good news.

    However, it seems to me that in a real Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community (PlBFC) because this is an important piece of bicycle infrastructure, that PBOT would have a spare motor sitting on a shelf right where they could get at it, and that the motor would have been replaced after last week’s trouble.

    In a real PlBFC where they didn’t have the motor, they would have ordered it after last week’s trouble. It would have been here by now and they would have been able to replace it.

    In a real PlBFC where they had forgot to order the motor, they would have posted two PBOT workers on either end of the path to monitor the gate. If and when the bridge went up, the two would make sure that the gate was closed. They’d have cell phones and/or walky-talkies to communicate with each other to make sure everyone was off the bridge.

    Instead, what we got in our actual community was a 2nd closure in as many weeks of an important link in the bicycle infrastructure. Somehow this doesn’t seem very platinum to me.

    And don’t talk to me about not having the budget for having the two guys stand around monitoring the gates. Take it out of the budget for the sharrows; this is more important.

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  • GLV August 3, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Seth: Union Pacific owns/maintains the bridge, not the City.

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  • matt picio August 3, 2010 at 9:34 am

    bjorn (#7) – Because it’s not the city’s bridge. It’s owned by Union Pacific Railroad, which has the right to revoke access at any time. This is a safety and liability issue related to 2 Federal agencies, the city, and the property owner.

    GLV (#28) is correct, because the Willamette is a navigable waterway. Typically it only opens for Fleet Week and the tallest tugs, but there are a few other ships that come upriver that require the bridge to lift the top deck.

    Seth (#32) regarding “important link in the bicycle infrastructure” – and we need to always keep in mind alternatives, since the bridge is private property, not public. 10 years ago, there was no lower deck, and the railroad can remove that option at any time at their discretion.

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  • ME 2 August 3, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Since I work just south of it, I took the Morrison Bridge over the river yesterday. It was a great ride with no crowds at all. Even though the Steel is open again, I’m going to take the Morrison on the commute home and see if it is a better option than sitting at the lights on Naito and trying to navigate all the bike\ped traffic on the waterfront leading up to the bridge.

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  • Andrew F August 6, 2010 at 9:23 am

    The lower deck was closed and padlocked last night at 9:30pm

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