Sellwood Bridge’s cracks mapped for future fix

Most folks in outer East Portland occasionally need to go to the west side – and frequently use the Sellwood Bridge. Here’s what the County is doing to keep it intact …

Even with all of the “bridge closed” signs up, some drivers still acted surprised to find the Sellwood Bridge closed for inspection on May 18th.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
While we were out reporting on this story on Sunday, May 18th, drivers who ignored the five “Sellwood Bridge Closed” signs posted starting from SE 17th Avenue westward rolled down their window and asked, “Why is it closed again?”

As we drew closer to the workers above and below the side-hanging gantry crane, we could see workers measuring and marking on the bridge.

We hiked down to the trail below, and observed two Multnomah County Bridge employees inspecting the aging structure inch by inch.

Using a specially designed rig, crews can inspect the sides and under deck areas of bridge from this moving platform.

“The purpose was to map the cracks into which epoxy will be injected in August,” we later learned from Multnomah County spokesman Michael Pullen.

“There are cracks, both in the concrete bridge deck and in the girders. Our workers were documenting the size of the cracks.”

It’s clear where concrete has broken off and the exposed steel rebar is rusting. Officials are more concerned, though, about rust weakening the internal structure which is hidden from view.

To be able to draw up a work contract, all of the cracks, Pullen said, must be identified and located.

“This is a low-cost, short-term measure to prolong the life of the bridge. The purpose of sealing the cracks is to keep water out. When water seeps in, it rusts the rebar. When the cracks are filled with epoxy, the experts say it will slow the bridge’s deterioration.”

A Multnomah County bridge maintenance worker measures and marks cracks to be injected with epoxy during a planned August closure.

In August, the Sellwood Bridge will be closed for two or three days and nights while the epoxy injection work is being done – so, expect a 10-mile detour looping around and over the Ross Island Bridge before Labor Day.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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