Big busted water main shuts Sandy Blvd.

Find out how quickly Portland Water Bureau fixed a huge rupture – but, how much longer will it’ll take for ODOT to get this well-used thoroughfare opened to traffic again is the question …

Water gushes out of the pavement, and out on NE Sandy Boulevard. Portland Fire & Rescue photo

Story and some photos by David F. Ashton
Just before the afternoon rush hour, NE Sandy Boulevard – bordering the outer East Portland Argay Terrace neighborhood – was abruptly shut down, when a 16-inch underground water pipe burst at about 3:00 p.m. on September 10.

“A 16-inch water pipe ruptured,” said Portland Water Bureau spokesman Tim Hall said. “It caused water to flow into the immediate area.”

NE Sandy Boulevard is closed, as Portland Water Bureau works to shut off the supply to a large water main running under the street.

Newly-laid pavement is buckled, due to water gushing from a broken water main buried below.

“It was quite a break – the entire pipe exploded out,” Hall exclaimed. “We replaced a 16-foot section.”

The water main rupture also caused the pavement to sink and buckle, just west of the intersection with NE 138th Avenue – known to many as the “Costco turnoff”, because it leads to the mass merchandiser’s mid-County location.

“It is unknown how many customers were out of water, but we do know that several multifamily housing units have been affected,” Hall told East Portland News at the scene.

A Water Bureau worker starts up a pump to evacuate some of the accumulated water beside the railroad right-of-way.

Another concern, Hall added, was that a large volume of water had pooled next to the railroad tracks just north of NE Sandy Boulevard. “We’re pumping out that water to make sure it doesn’t affect the rail line.”

Workers say it looks as if a large section of pipe just “exploded”, after they uncover the buried water main. Tim Hall, PWB photo

Here’s what the ruptured pipe looked like, after it was excavated. Tim Hall, PWB photo

The next afternoon, Hall reported progress. “We completed the water main repair at about 5:30 a.m. this morning, and flushed the mainline. It’s back in service right now.”

But – not so NE Sandy Boulevard, itself. “It’s closed to traffic between NE 131st Avenue and NE 138th Avenue,” said Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Region One spokesman Don Hamilton.

Local bicycle and pedestrian traffic is permitted, but even they are excluded from the immediate work zone out of concern for the safety of the road, Hamilton added.

Just when NE Sandy Boulevard will reopen to motor vehicle traffic remains unclear.

“The water damaged several hundred feet of the road, the U.S. 30 Bypass,” said Hamilton, who said his agency is responsible for the highway. “A thorough inspection is needed to determine what steps are needed to make the road safe. Once the work plan is set, the contractor will work around the clock to get the road open.”

At publication time, Hamilton said that, because of complex infrastructure at the intersection, ODOT specialists had not yet been able to determine when NE Sandy Boulevard would again be open to traffic.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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