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Sellwood Bridge to close for the ‘Big Move’

Posted by on January 15th, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Sellwood Bridge Tour with Richard M.-3

Sellwood Bridge
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

If riding across the Sellwood Bridge is part of your daily routine, you need to make other plans. The 1,100 foot long bridge is set to close from this Thursday January 17th – 24th while construction crews move it — yes, move it — to the north to make room for the new bridge. The old bridge will become the detour around ongoing construction.

Instead of building a new bridge to use until the new one is done in summer 2015, Multnomah County decided on the “Big Move” because it will save time (about one year) and money ($5-10 million), and it will have fewer environmental impacts.

Below is a drawing of the new and existing bridge alignments:

While the bridge is closed, your best bet as a bicycle detour is to use the Hawthorne or Ross Island bridges. The Hawthorne (3 1/2 miles north) has good connections to bikeways on both sides of the river — the Springwater on the east and the Willamette Greenway trail one the west.

For more about the “Big Move” see the project website.

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  • Andrew K January 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I would love to see someone produce a time lapse video of this. It’s hard to wrap my head around an entire bridge being moved.

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    • PorterStout January 15, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      Yeah, and hard not imagining it crumbling into a million pieces given its notorious condition.

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      • Spiffy January 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm

        I’m hoping it crumbles and the Clackamas commuter residents cry their entire trip on I-84…

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      • nuovorecord January 15, 2013 at 2:40 pm

        Actually, the bridge span itself is in good condition. It’s the approaches, particularly the west end, that are the weak spots.

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    • Dave Thomson January 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      The project website (see link in article) has promised to post a time lapse video after the completion of the move. They point out that the actual move will happen an inch or two at a time with stops in between to verify alignment, so it will be pretty boring to watch in real time.

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  • Joseph E January 15, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    “Instead of building a new bridge to use until the new one is done in summer 2015, Multnomah County decided on the “Big Move” because it will save time (about one year) and money ($5-10 million), and it will have fewer environmental impacts.”

    But tearing down the current bridge first, and then building the new one in the same spot, would have been the cheapest option of all. This would have saved millions compared to the plan to move the old bridge. I understand the decision to keep the bridge open for cars, but it is a cost to move the bridge, not a matter of “saving” money.

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    • Toby January 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      Well, I guess you just can’t please everyone…

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    • laura January 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      One of the “ground rules” for the project was to limit closure to 30 days total for the project. The Sellwood and Moreland communities, residents and businesses alike, motorists, bicyclists and walkers, were feeling the effects of access lost during the Bybee Bridge closure. There were also issues related to emergency access for police and ambulances (as fire trucks are weight-limited off the bridge).

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    • chucklehead January 21, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      Joseph, you are only looking at the direct costs. Did you include the costs of the additional congestion elsewhere, the lost commerce on the west side of the bridge, etc?

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  • hilsy January 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    First, the county will have a live webcam going during the move and they are going to have a time lapse video of the whole move. Very cool.

    Second, Joseph E, have you even thought about the economic impact to Sellwood if the bridge were closed for a whole year plus. In my mind, this option definitely makes it “cheaper in the big picture.

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    • oliver January 15, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      I haven’t thought about it. Is Sellwood a shopping destination for SW hills neighborhoods? I know there are some bars and restaurants down there, do they get a significant amount of custom from the SW neighborhoods?

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    • Spiffy January 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm

      I think Sellwood would love to not have all that traffic passing through there every day… it’s mostly commuters using the bridge, not people from the west side coming over to shop on the east side…

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  • Kiel Johnson
    Kiel Johnson January 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    anyone know of any viewing parties for this? might be fun to go to one of the parks around the bridge and see it happen.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Hey Kiel,

      According to the county, the move will be slow slow it won’t be perceptible to the human eye unless you’re right next to it.

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    • laura January 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      The Sellwood-Moreland Business Association is hosting an event for the public at the Oaks Pioneer Church.

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  • A.K. January 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Will the part of the springwater that passes under the bridge be closed during this process?

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    • Christianne January 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      I’ve been wondering about this myself, and whether or not there’ll be a signed detour…

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      • A.K. January 15, 2013 at 2:51 pm

        I don’t think it’ll be a such a big deal for one week, but it’ll be interesting to see what they do at any rate.

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    • davemess January 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      My guess is no (although I have no authority) as the Springwater goes under a section of the bridge pretty far east of what is being moved. (most of the construction area is on the other side of the office building that the Springwater runs on the east side of.)

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  • q`Tzal January 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    JM: please update this post with the time lapse when available.

    Anyone suspect that public “viewing parties” should include 3rd party video and pictures? If I was the government or a contractor involved and there were any problems I’d make sure that they don’t make it to the video.

    ‘sall bout documentin screwsups for future litigation.

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    • Granpa January 15, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      I thought I was the resident cynic around here

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      • q`Tzal January 15, 2013 at 5:55 pm

        Bumper sticker seen occasionally on active duty military bases:
        “I love my country but don’t trust my government”

        People in government are still just people; they don’t gain any super ethical powers when elected that make them any less susceptible to the corruption of power than of the rest of us.

        Which points to another goody that is so appropriate that when I researched it I expected to see it attributed to some historic figure:
        “A government is a body of people, usually, notably ungoverned.”

        We’re supposed to watch our government closely and report what they are doing, that’s what the freedom of the press is about.

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  • Granpa January 16, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Trust yet verify was language used by Saint Ronald Regan. I know people working on the project and know that there is an unprecedented level of scrutiny on this work. There are inspectors watching inspectors and private companies watching other companies for quality, technical competence and of course everyone is watching how money is spent. Just because this is a big project with government funding does not mean that it is a wallow for graft, corruption, incompetence or misappropriation of funds. I will bet you a pitcher of IPA that there are no screw ups on the move. Call me out next week if my faith is misplaced.

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    • q`Tzal January 16, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      Not saying big government is more prone to corruption.
      Not saying big corporations are more prone to corruption.
      In my experience this more of a problem in small organizational sizes (less than 10 people) because a large organization at least recognizes that “corruption is bad, mm-kay” and they have to do something to control it.
      Ain’t nothing as corrupt as a backwater town’s police force but everyone just accepts it as the way its always been.

      At the very least private cameras on smartphones can stream funny/moronic “incidents” as they happen to YouTube.

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