Beginning at 6 p.m. today, NW Cornell Road will fully reopen to the traveling public as essential repairs to the NW Cornell Tunnels are now substantially complete. NW Cornell Road has been closed since Aug. 23 between NW 30th and 53rd avenues for essential repairs to the Cornell Tunnels to prevent structural failure.
First constructed by the Works Progress Administration in 1940 and 1941, these historic tunnels have served as a key transportation connection for over 80 years. Repairs to the tunnels were necessitated by the discovery of a large crack near the crown of the western Cornell Tunnel in 2019.
The prolonged closure was required due to the constrained working environment. Located in Forest Park, the tunnels were too narrow to remain open during the required construction. Contractors working for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) used great care while repairing damaged portions of the tunnel linings, while preserving historic nature of the structures and ensuring workers safety. The old lining of both tunnels was removed via hydro-blasting and a new lining was installed with rebar reinforced shotcrete concrete.
In addition to these structural repairs, new LED lighting has been installed in both tunnels to improve safety and energy efficiency. Finally, the stone masonry portals of both tunnels were cleaned and cleared of ivy by PBOT staff. Now complete, these repairs will extend the useful life of these historic assets.
The closure of a key transportation link like NW Cornell is significant and the project team would like to thank Portlanders for their patience during these extensive repairs and associated detours. Crews will return to calibrate the lights in the tunnels later this summer. This calibration may cause traffic delays but will not require tunnel closures or detours.
PBOT traffic data from before the pandemic show the tunnels handled roughly 7,000 vehicle trips per day. Now that NW Cornell is reopened, thousands of daily travelers can again rely on this important connection.