Major gas main rupture halts ODOT project

Find out the impact this ‘massive gas leak’ also had, on the Montavilla area businesses, and on those trying to drive along the SE Avenue of Roses …

For fourteen hours, this outer East Portland intersection is shut down due to a “massive” natural gas line rupture.

Story and Photos by David F. Ashton

For the last few weeks, the 82nd Avenue Burnside to Division Intersection Safety Improvement Project – undertaken by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) – has caused single lane closures in both directions, from E Burnside Street to SE Yamhill Street, on weekdays.

But, starting at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23, traffic came to a complete standstill on Oregon Highway 213 (more commonly known as SE 82nd Avenue of Roses) at Washington Street – after an ODOT contractor ruptured a large natural gas line in the southwest corner of the intersection.

Carefully, NW Natural crews dig around a gas main that was drilled through by highway contractors.

“Those construction contractors are working for us,” confirmed ODOT Region 1 spokesman Don Hamilton. “This project focuses mostly on intersection improvements, upgrading the sidewalk ramps, traffic signals, and adding lighting.”

Max Denny, who said he works at a nearby car lot, stood by watching crews from NW Natural head toward the rupture.

“The hissing sound was loud, and the smell of rotten eggs was unmistakable,” Denny told East Portland News.

Gas company supervisors decide the best way to cap the escaping gas.

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) spokesman Chris Schimmer described the gas leak, from boring a hole in a four-inch natural gas line, “massive”.

“Businesses and other civilians within a one block radius were evacuated from the area,” said Schimmer. “Additionally, PGE (Portland General Electric) was asked to shut down power immediately around the leak,” he added.
It took NW Natural more than five hours to stop the gas-venting by digging out both sides of SE 82nd Avenue of Roses and welding temporary shut-off valves into the pipeline.

PF&R firefighters were standing by with hose lines charged with water, in case flames erupted from the worksite.

Portland General Electric “Eagle Teams” are called in to cut all power to the immediate area, so a wayward spark could not ignite the gas.

The situation had a couple of fortunate aspects that helped the overall safety of those around this leak, Schimmer observed.

“One, the leak was flowing directly up through a hole in the street, and mixing out into the atmosphere,” Schimmer explained. “If the natural gas had not had this escape path, then it could have traveled underground for quite some distance, and potentially worked its way into surrounding businesses and homes.

“Secondarily, there was a moderate wind blowing, helping the gas disperse even more rapidly,” added Schimmer.

Working into the night, crews repair the natural gas line.

NW Natural crews were working at the location long into the night, as they had to dig up a good portion of the entire intersection to replace the damaged pipe.

Although the flow of natural gas was shut off at about 7:00 p.m., NW Natural crews worked into the night, replacing the damaged pipe and restoring service. S.E. 82nd Avenue of Roses was finally reopened at 3:30 a.m. on March 24.

Work resumed on the highway project the day after the gas line incident.

If you’re interested learning more about ODOT’s 82nd Avenue Burnside to Division Intersection Safety Improvement Project, check their official weekly update web page: CLICK HERE.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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