Delays push back opening of Blumenauer Bridge over I-84

Posted by on June 7th, 2021 at 12:13 pm

View of the Blumenauer Bridge span from NE 7th Ave looking south across Sullivan’s Gulch/I-84.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

With so much attention on the Flanders Crossing Bridge that opened last week, lots of folks have wondered what’s up with the other carfree bridge currently under construction: The Congressman Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge that will someday connect the central eastside to the Lloyd via 7th Avenue.

When we last checked in on it seven months ago it looked like installation of the bridge’s 475-foot span over Sullivan’s Gulch and Interstate 84 was imminent. Work on the $14 million project began in November 2019.

Initial estimates from the Portland Bureau of Transportation said the bridge would be moved into place in August 2020 and would be open for traffic by spring of this year. But the swooping arches that rolled into place last winter haven’t budged for months. Now it appears it could be spring 2022 before we’re able to walk and roll across this new bridge.

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Similar to what happened to I-405 when the Flanders Crossing was installed, the placement of the bridge over Sullivan’s Gulch will require a full closure of I-84 in both directions for one weekend. This means PBOT must get approval from both the Oregon Department of Transportation and Union Pacific Railroad before they lift the bridge across the freeway. Given that I-84 is a much more significant freeway than I-405 and the fact that the gulch includes both heavy and light rail lines, it’s understandable that getting sign-offs on a full closure is complicated.

A source close to the project said PBOT hopes to install the bridge this coming weekend and a tentative opening date would be early 2022.

Asked to confirm the delay and these new dates, a PBOT spokesperson said only, “We’ll have some news soon.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Walter in Portland
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Walter in Portland

Seems to me they missed an ideal window in the depths of the pandemic. I-84 was dead there for a while.

squareman
Subscriber

Agreed, but they have to get the site engineered before a pre-fab bridge can be dropped into place. Soil engineering and shaping are some of the most time-consuming parts of any transportation project. And that’s before you even get to put in the anchor pilings and base mounting sites. Mess that up and the entire project is compromised.

kate
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kate

bummer! i thought this was going to get completed in 2021. while the flanders bridge is certainly exciting, this bridge is a gamechanger!

Falkor
Guest
Falkor

It says a lot about our society’s priorities that a new bridge has to be delayed for months or maybe a year just because installation would require a railroad and freeway to be closed for one weekend.

squareman
Subscriber

Freeway, major transit rail, and major shipping rail. That’s why the 405 was easier to close for a weekend. It was just for a freeway and nothing more.

Todd/Boulanger
Guest
Todd/Boulanger

The reasons you mentioned (And don’t forget the MAX! )…PLUS our “local” regional transportation networks do not have a lot of alternative route capacity…unless you want to shunt car, truck and rail traffic up to the north side of the Columbia etc. As for rail…this reminds me of the lack of “optional” routes when I-5 and the north south rail routes were severed by the Amtrak derailment near Dupont WA.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

This bridge won’t span over the MAX corridor, so I’m not sure why it was even mentioned in this article. Union Pacific can route eastbound trains via north Portland, so I’m not sure why this has been such a big issue. Freight traffic is down this year.

squareman
Subscriber

Ah, good catch and good point! MAX is up on surface streets starting at 12th Ave and heading west.

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Member

MAX seems to close some significant section of the line every year for a month for construction, so it’d be strange if that was the limiting factor. Examples:
2021: https://trimet.org/alerts/blueline/index.htm#gateway2
2020: http://web.archive.org/web/20210121021313/https://trimet.org/alerts/steelbridge/index.htm

one
Guest

I sure hope the Union Pacific Railroad isn’t trying to sabotage this Safety Bridge. We needed this bridge years ago.

mh
Subscriber

Installation THIS WEEKEND? And PBOT has made no public announcement?

I planned on watching it from my office building, so a schedule would be really helpful.