By Keith Daellenbach CNA Media Team
Two bridges span Northeast Lombard Street and an adjacent railroad connecting the Concordia neighborhood to Northeast Columbia Boulevard, and both have changes in store as planned by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT).
These bridges are at the northern termini of Northeast 33rd Avenue and Northeast 42nd Avenue. They provide necessary vehicular and bicycle access to Northeast Columbia Boulevard as well as north to Northeast Marine Drive.
The Northeast 33rd Avenue bridge has been partially closed for eight months and, according to PBOT’s website, the bridge could reopen at the earliest in late June (Portland.gov/transportation/pbot-projects/construction/ne-33rd-avenue-bridge). Meanwhile, PBOT plans to replace the Northeast 42nd Avenue bridge.
The Northeast 33rd Avenue bridge was constructed in 1929 and, according to a brass plaque affixed to the bridge, was originally called the “East Thirty-Third Street Viaduct.” According to PBOT, a bridge of this design has a typical life of approximately 50 years. In a 2021 report on infrastructure in the United States, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) reports that 42% of all bridges are at least 50 years old and many need repair (InfrastructureReportCard.org/cat-item/bridges/).
In 2019, the ASCE gave Oregon a “C” grade for its bridge infrastructure and said the state had the lowest percentage of bridges in good condition among western states (InfrastructureReportCard. org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/ FullReport-OR_2019.pdf). Funding for Oregon’s bridges, according to the ASCE, is critically low. Now 93 years old, the Northeast 33rd Avenue bridge’s life has been considerably extended due to upgrades and repairs. As recently as a few years ago, it was closed for many months as it was upgraded to include lanes designed to accommodate increased bicycle traffic.
PBOT inspectors found damage to concrete in one of the bridge’s crossbeams at the northern terminus of the bridge. Two of the three ingress/egress lanes were closed in late August 2021. Only the undamaged northbound fly-over section, which transports northbound traffic on Northeast 33rd Avenue to a westbound direction on Northeast Columbia Boulevard, remains open.
On the underside of the bridge, workers erected temporary vertical steel supports and bolted them to new concrete footings which, in turn, support a large steel I-beam that supports a concrete cross beam to hold up the bridge while repair work is completed. The cost of repairing the bridge remains to be determined.
Meanwhile, PBOT notes the Northeast 42nd Avenue bridge sits on a recommended Emergency Transportation Route. However, the bridge is vulnerable to earthquakes (Portland.gov/transportation/pbot-projects/construction/ne-42nd-ave-bridge-over-ne-lombard). A $17 million dollar project will pay for the replacement of this bridge. A new bridge will meet modern seismic code and will provide better access for freight, walking, and biking. Bidding and contracting will happen this summer and construction is expected to start this fall.
Keith Daellenbach is a mechanical engineer and outdoor enthusiast who loves mountain climbing, skiing, biking, canoeing, and beekeeping with wife Amy and son Micah. His home is in Concordia.