Weekend I-205 closure befuddles drivers

There was a good reason, ODOT says, why the freeway was closed for an entire weekend – even though it caused massive traffic jams in outer East Portland  …

Traffic inches along northbound SE 82nd Avenue of Roses, trying to absorb the heavy load of cars and trucks detoured off northbound I-205, which was closed for paving.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Many motorists going through East Portland said they were angered, flabbergasted, or stupefied (or perhaps all three) – while others claimed to be just plain surprised – to find northbound Interstate 205 totally closed to all traffic from the evening of August 2 through the morning of August 5.

The closure was due to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) completing the final phases of announced freeway improvements.

Traffic backs up through the Lents and Brentwood-Darlington neighborhoods along SE 82nd Avenue of Roses, as frustrated motorists try to work their way north without access to I-205.

“Only people in the government could come up with such a stupid thing as ‘shutting down the freeway’ for an entire weekend,” fumed Frank Jackson, stuck on a line of northbound traffic on SE 82nd Avenue of Roses on Saturday, August 3.

“I’ve had to turn off my air conditioner because my SUV is overheating,” remarked Susan Dumfries, as she waited as a handful of vehicles at a time went through the intersection at SE Holgate Boulevard.

A power roller flattens the new pavement put down on northbound I-205 during the overnight hours of the weekend.

In outer East Portland, Jonas Stalwart was in one of 138 vehicles lined up on northbound SE 112th Avenue stretching from Willamette National Cemetery atop Mt. Scott, down to SE Foster Road.

“I knew that 82nd [Avenue] would be jammed up for sure, but I thought taking the back roads would be a breeze, and I sure guessed wrong,” Stalwart groused to East Portland News.

Traffic is backed up on NE 112th Avenue, from Foster Road, up to the top of Mt. Scott.

On northbound SE 92nd Avenue, cars and trucks were lined up from SE Flavel Street south to the Johnson Creek Boulevard freeway interchange.

“This work, soon to be concluded on Interstate 205, between Johnson Creek Boulevard and the Glenn Jackson Bridge, includes paving the freeway, ramps, and intersections; building auxiliary lanes in three locations; installing ODOT ‘RealTime’ signs; improving the entrance to the multi-use path at Glisan Street; and improving sidewalk curb ramps within the project area,” detailed ODOT Public Information Officer Don Hamilton.

Asked about the decision to shut down a major freeway for a weekend, Hamilton said he could sum it up in two words: “Quicker, cheaper.”

Northbound side streets in East Portland are clogged for the weekend, as motorists look for shortcuts around the traffic jams.

“The evaluations showed that the work that needed to be done would have required 17 nighttime full closures, otherwise; and, would have cost an additional $600,000 – starting and stopping the construction every day,” Hamilton explained.

Worried about a massive southbound freeway closure? “Don’t be,” Hamilton said. “The southbound improvements were done last year,” he said, but added there may be lane closures for installing “sign bridges” over the freeway before the project concludes.

One of those was set for the Glenn Jackson Bridge over the Columbia River on the weekend of August 10-11.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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