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Blumenauer Bridge still not ready for installation as city says it’ll be ‘a few more weeks’


Ohhh the longing!
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“[We want to] be really sure that everything is working and we have a schedule that we’re going to be able to stick to before we make any announcement about the closure and moving forward with the project.”
— Mark Lear, PBOT

If all went according to plan, we’d already be pedaling across a new carfree bridge over I-84 on 7th Avenue. But the latest update from the City of Portland is that it won’t be slid into place for at least a few more weeks. This morning’s announcement, made during a monthly meeting of the Portland Bureau of Transportation Freight Advisory Committee, pushes the opening of the bridge even further back into summer 2022.

The $14 million Congressman Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge, a lynchpin in Portland’s central city bicycle network, broke ground in November 2019 and most of the preliminary work to supports on both sides of the freeway gulch are complete. The 475 foot long bridge is currently lying-in-wait behind a chain link fence on the south side of 7th Avenue.

PBOT initially said the bridge would be installed in August 2020. Then in late June of this year PBOT gave notice of a July 9th installation, a logistical feat that would require the full closure of I-84 and sign-off from Union Pacific Railroad. Eight days before that planned installation, PBOT updated their notice to say that because of “additional coordination work to do” the project would not move forward.

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View of the bridge deck looking north with Lloyd area buildings in the background.

At Thursday morning’s Freight Committee meeting, PBOT staffer Mark Lear updated members on the status of the project. Here’s what he said:

“There was some missteps in the communication about when we thought we were going to do the work and, looking back at what happened, the understanding is that the contractor had some assumptions as they were working through their work and how things were going to be processed by the railroad, and those assumptions were I think overly aggressive with the change that was happening in the project as they were out in the field doing some of that work. And so there’s no blame on the railroad as far steps they were asking us to go through. It’s just some of those complications where the contractor thought things would be as that process went on.

At this point the contractor has approval for three of the four items [the railroad is asking the city for]. So they’re working on one remaining item. We are hopeful that we’ll have that issue resolved in the next few weeks, but obviously at this point [we want to] be really sure that everything is working and we have a schedule that we’re going to be able to stick to before we make any announcement about the closure and moving forward with the project… we’re in a reasonably good place at this point and he [PBOT Project Manager Dan Layden] sees the project continuing to move forward and we’ll let you know when we have more information.”

So there you have it folks. Stay tuned!

UPDATE, 10:34 am: PBOT Comms Director John Brady just shared this explanation for the delay:

“The delay is explained by a mix of factors, including schedule changes caused by the pandemic and the inherent complexity of building a bridge to span a major freeway. Currently, we are waiting for final approval from the railroad to work near their right-of-way and that is extending the timeframe.”

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