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June 2016 -- Vol. 110, No. 10

Memories of THE BEE's first 100 years!
In 2006, THE BEE celebrated its centennial of serving Southeast Portland!  A special four-page retrospective of Inner Southeast Portland's century, written by Eileen Fitzsimons, and drawn from the pages of THE BEE over the previous 100 years, appeared in our September, 2006, issue.
Click here to read this special retrospective!


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Bullseye Glass Company
A furnace, visible from the street, glowed cherry red at the Bullseye Glass Company, after the “cease and desist” order was given. However, the order did not order an end to glass production – only a temporary halt of the use of certain minerals in glassmaking. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Bullseye in Governor’s crosshairs

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

Activists claimed it was an environmental victory when Governor Kate Brown ordered Bullseye Glass Company to stop using virtually all metallic chemical elements for at least 10 days on May 19. Others were not so sure.

Owners of the specialty art-glass manufacturer, long based in the Brooklyn neighborhood, declared “foul play” at the action they said would certainly cause layoffs.

At the direction of Governor Kate Brown on May 19, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) ordered Bullseye Glass to “cease and desist the use of lead – as well as arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, all chromium compounds, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and selenium, in any uncontrolled furnace for 10 days”. Further, the cease and desist order could be continued for additional 10-day periods, the DEQ warned.

“Public health and safety are my highest priorities,” Governor Brown was quoted as saying in a press release. “This swift action and public notification will help ensure the wellbeing of local residents who live and work in the area.”

Multnomah County Health Department spokesperson Julie Sullivan-Springhetti looked up the lead levels involved for THE BEE:

  • May 9   – 416 nanograms per cubic meter of air (ng/m3)
  • May 10 – 669 ng/m3

“This was up from a lead reading of 248 nanograms per cubic meter of air in October, Sullivan-Springhetti said. The state considers any reading above 150 ng per cubic meter of air an ‘acute health risk for lead’.” She did not explain why, then, there seemed to be no concern about the 248 nanogram reading in October.

As pointed out in THE BEE’s March front-page article on this subject, a nanogram is pretty small: It is 0.000000001 of one gram.

At a press conference that evening, at the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Operations Center, the agency’s Director Lynne Saxton explained how the Governor came to issue the decree.

“This morning we received data regarding air monitoring results at a daycare near [Bullseye] that showed an immediate, short-term health risk from lead levels that were four times above the 24-hour ‘benchmark’,” Saxton said.

“And, we decided to take immediate action, as we’ve consistently said we would, if we saw these levels get above the immediate safety level and standard,” Saxton added.  “These actions led our agency and the DEA to send a letter to the Governor today, based on this air data, asking her to take action and direct the agencies accordingly.”

DEQ Lab Program Manager Brian Boling stated that they took into account meteorological readings, showing the winds coming of the Northwest going over the Bullseye factory, and into the area of the daycare facility.

“DEQ also examined [Bullseye manufacturing] batch tickets it showed that, during this time, they were using elevated levels of lead in their glass,” reported Boling. “Therefore the DEQ concluded that Bullseye glass must have been the source of this unsafe concentration.”

Benchmark levels” in context
THE BEE
reached out to the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences Director of the Toxicology Information Center, Dr. Fred Berman PhD DVM, who, in the March issue of our newspaper explained the meaning of “benchmark levels” – specifically, at that at time, for the chemical elements arsenic (0.2 nanogams per cubic meter of air) and cadmium (0.6 nanogams per cubic meter of air).

“The benchmark level for airborne lead is actually 0.15 micrograms [or 150 nanogams] per cubic meter air, to which is based on the National Ambient Air Quality Standard, adopted in 2008,” Berman said. “The benchmark is based on a lot of data, was recently reviewed (2014), and reaffirmed as being conservative and protective of public health.

“It would be difficult to provide an air concentration value that could be considered harmful for a 24 hour exposure, inasmuch as there are many factors that might influence this number, and we don’t do these types of experiments on humans.

“Suffice to say that any air concentration that would produce toxicity within 24 hours would be extremely high, higher than would ever be seen in today's occupational settings, and many thousands of times higher than the benchmark,” Berman continued.

“The World Health Organization's recommended acceptable daily intake for lead is 7 micrograms per kilogram body weight; and it also states that a tolerable intake for preschool children should be less than the 3 milligrams per week that is recommended for adults,” Berman went on.

“The primary exposure of concern for children and adults is lead-based paint and paint dusts found within homes,” explained Berman. “70% of all toxic lead exposures are of this nature, and these exposures include ingestion and inhalation routes.”

Bullseye Glass responds
Bullseye Glass Company has consistently refused to speak to THE BEE, but Vice President Jim Jones said in press release, “We received the cease and desist order a few minutes before it was sent out to the press.

“We are surprised and concerned that DEQ is taking the position that a single data point is sufficient to justify issuing a Cease and Desist Order,” Jones wrote. The Cease and Desist Order and press conference were an unnecessary and heavy-handed tactic.

Jones told reporters that if the order were not lifted, the company would have to start laying off employees by May 23.

“We are scared,” Jones told BEE news partner KOIN-TV 6 News. “We have 150 employees, we want to move forward; we know we can put emission controls into place and create a safe environment. But, DEQ is continuing to throw more roadblocks in front of us.”

Multnomah County Environmental Health Director Dr. Jae Douglas announced that, on the day following the press conference, they’d offer lead screenings at the county’s Southeast Health Center on S.E. 34th Avenue, just south of Powell Boulevard; and also on May 23 at the CCLC daycare center itself.

The County screened 121 people the Southeast Health Center, including 33 children under age 6; 15 children between ages 7-18; and 73 adults – and none required further action,” Douglas reported.

The team also screened 51 children under 6 years of age at the daycare center; one child between age 7 to 18; and 19 adults – and none of them required any public health action either, Douglas added.

“Parents should be reassured that we did not find blood lead levels of concern,’’ commented Douglas. “But we know we have not reached everyone, and we encourage moms, and children under 6, to take advantage of our upcoming clinics.”

Follow-up report raises questions
On May 26 the OHA and DEA released results of monitoring, showing that lead levels had returned to those seen in previous months of monitoring, and were well below the 24-hour screening level.

“Hexavalent chromium levels are still averaging above 12-month health goals, known as ambient benchmark concentrations,” said OHA spokesman Jonathan Modie. “Investigators at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality continue to seek the source of these emissions.” Since the cease-and-desist order was in place against Bullseye, it would seem in this case that they could not have been the source

The DEQ has visited several industrial sites, including a cement plant, railyard, trucking facility, and chrome-plating facilities near the Southeast Portland air monitoring locations, reported DEQ spokesperson Jennifer Flynt.

“Bullseye is just one potential source of the higher hexavalent chromium, although it has not used that metal in glass production since mid-February,” Flynt added.

Despite all the good news in this subsequent testing, on May 27, Governor Brown chose to extend her 10-day cease and desist order against Bullseye Glass, initially issued May 19, to continue to limit Bullseye’s use of toxic heavy metals, including lead, from its glassmaking processes, through June 8.

Meantime, just how the company itself is reacting to this development is unclear, since they won’t talk to us.

But we’d guess that Bullseye Glass, considered to be one of the world’s most important sources of the special glass used in creating glass art, may be waiting for yet another shoe to drop.



Inner Southeast neighbors examine the city’s map for potential natural hazards, during the Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan open house at the Sellwood Community Center. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Portland plans for natural hazards – like big earthquakes!

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

Charged with being prepared to deal with earthquakes, landslides, urban/wildland wildfires, and floods, the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) is in the process of updating its citywide Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan.

“This is a plan to systematically identify, and reduce our vulnerabilities for, natural hazard risks,” explained PBEM and Preparedness Manager Jonna Papaefthimiou, at an open house held at the Sellwood Community Center on the afternoon of Sunday, April 24.

“Last October we saw that even major streets can flood; here in Sellwood there are landslide risks at Oaks Bluff, and many people who came today say they’re super-interested in earthquakes,” Papaefthimiou told THE BEE.

“The purpose of our session here today is to give people background information on our natural hazard exposure, and to tell about our goals for this planning process,” Papaefthimiou said. “Throughout this process, our purpose is to promote collaboration within communities, and do so with an ‘equity lens’.

“This is because the folks who have the fewest resources are always the most impacted by natural disasters, and really suffer the most,” Papaefthimiou commented. “Hopefully under this plan, all of our neighbors can recover and rebuild after a natural disaster.”

After her talk, the group broke out into interest groups to seek ideas for projects that the Bureau should pursue to help mitigate the risks. “We think we have some good ideas for projects, but we are actively soliciting projects,” Papaefthimiou said.

Through at least this month, PBEM’s 33-member public steering committee will look at that list and organize the projects into groups, and then prioritize them according to these goals of equity and “greatest good”.

“Then, hopefully, in July, we’ll create our Draft Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan, to see which Bureaus in city government will want to take on each project – such as those dealing with water, sewer and parks,” said Papaefthimiou. “Hopefully we’ll find sponsors for other projects.”

If you missed the meeting, you can still get involved, online. Follow the project, or take the survey. The official webpage is:  https://www.portlandoregon.gov/pbem/67578



Boat fire, Waverly Marina, Willamette River
With fire hose at the ready, crewmembers from Westmoreland Fire Station 20 move inside the burned- out cabin cruiser south of the Sellwood Bridge. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Boat burns on Willamette at Waverly Marina

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

On the east bank of the Willamette River, several boat owners were either maintaining them, or were just enjoying the sunny afternoon at the Waverley Marina, on Friday, May 20. Then flames were seen on one of the boats. 

After a craft caught fire in the marina, witnesses told arriving firefighters that there had been a “very strong smell of glue, like a modeling glue such as one would use to build plastic bottle aircraft or boats”.  

The smell was very strong before the smoke appeared – and then fire showed from a cabin cruiser that, spectators said, had been moored there for some time, with little apparent care given to it.

“We found an 18-foot boat that had a small fire in the interior,” later reported Captain Caleb Currie of Westmoreland’s Engine 20 crew, who quickly extinguished the blaze at 2:42 p.m. Nine other pieces of fire equipment responded to the general alarm, including Woodstock’s Engine 25.

“The reports were that other people in the marina had smelled smoke for about thirty minutes before they saw the fire; when smoke started coming out of the window of this boat, they called us,” Currie confirmed for THE BEE.

The main fire appeared to be in the cabin area of the craft, he said. An Arson Squad Investigator arrived, but findings regarding the cause of the blaze, and loss estimate, were not available at press time.

No one was on board, Currie said; and he added that no one had seen anyone near that boat since last summer. Pending the outcome of the investigation, it was possible that the fire arose from spontaneous combustion.



Precision Castparts
PCC Structuals Inc. VP/General Manager Aaron Johnson told the community meeting he’s committed to a clean environment, and good communication with neighbors. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Precision Castparts “dialogue” still in progress – two years later

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

Brentwood-Darlington neighbors have long expressed concerns about potentially toxic air emissions from Precision Castparts Corporation’s Large Parts Campus (PCC).

But area residents became seriously worried on the afternoon of May 11, 2011, when an orange plume of nitrogen dioxide belched out of the plant, after a power failure.

Although company officials met with some community leaders, it took three years for them to hold a community meeting at the Brentwood-Darlington Community Center to speak directly with concerned citizens.

At that meeting, held on April 10, 2014, PCC Communications Manager Jay Kahetani said, “We want to start a process of dialogue with community stakeholders.”

As reported at that time in THE BEE, community members vented frustration with the lack of communication with, and potential health hazards from, the Precision Castparts facility.

Public communications fell silent for another two years, until PCC sent a letter in early May to publicize an upcoming public meeting. It was followed by a postcard announcing it was to be held on the evening of May 25, at the Monarch Hotel & Conference Center, off the I-205 freeway, in Clackamas.

Although many who came to the meeting expressed resentment that the meeting was held at such a distance from the affected neighborhood, about 350 attended the community meeting.

On the minds of many who came was information released on May 20 by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), in a report showing the 35-day average of air quality readings between March 30 and May 4 taken near PCC.

These readings, the OHA reported, showed that arsenic levels were more than four times above the health-based ambient benchmark concentrations for the metal, although that was still within what’s normally found in urban environments (urban background) for the area – while nickel was almost two times above the target benchmark, and hexavalent chromium was just above target.

“Though the levels of the metals are above health-based target concentrations, they are below Oregon 24-hour screening levels, so there is no indication of an immediate public health threat,” summed up OHA toxicologist David Farrer.

“We are here to discuss with our neighbors and community members what PCC is doing to act responsibly in terms of the environment and our community involvement,” Kahetani told THE BEE as the most recent meeting, on May 25, got underway.

“I appreciate that there is a high level of skepticism,” he said. “I ask the community to look at the actions that we've taken, and that we will intend to take, to convince them otherwise.”

Kahetani pointed out posters and displays in the back of the room, showing that as of May 16, PCC had installed additional pollution control devices, including four HEPA filters and one baghouse, supplementing the existing 32 baghouses and two HEPA filters.

“Technologically, we’ve spent the last several years designing and engineering emission control upgrades that are now online; but, they’ve been years in the making,” he remarked. “We are also in the process of installing an upgraded stormwater catch basin system for all the storm water that hits our facility along Johnson Creek Boulevard, before it goes into Johnson Creek”

Brentwood Darlington Neighborhood Association Chair Lesley McKinley said she came to the meeting on her own behalf, and was not speaking for her Board of Directors.

“I live in the impacted area, so this is personally important to me,” McKinley said.

She said the neighborhood has experienced “historic disinvestment” since being annexed, is dealing with the homeless quandary, and now with a potential environmental crisis.

“PCC’s owner, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren E. Buffett, often speaks leaving a legacy for others to enjoy,” McKinley said. “Our neighborhood association, obviously on a much smaller scale, also needs to think about legacy, when it comes to the stewardship of our environment.”

While concerned for the safety of her family and neighbors, McKinley said she’s familiar with their business because her husband was employed with a high-tech manufacturing company. “Five people on my street work for Precision; I do not want them to lose their jobs. It’s vitally important to me to protect the interest of all of our neighbors.”

As the meeting got underway, PCC Structuals Inc.VP/General Manager Aaron Johnson outlined the evening, saying they would talk about what they manufacture, safety, and the environment, and community outreach and building relationships.

“As many of you know, in the past, we haven’t been good at reaching out and being part of the community,” Johnson admitted. “We are here, reaching out now.”

After a company overview, and presentation of the PCC pollution control upgrades, facilitator Donna Silverberg of DS Consulting guided the conversation.

The first question came up regarding PCC’s ability to filter nickel from its discharged air.

“We do not believe that we are the source of the ‘nickel hot spot’ as graphed by the DEQ,” Kahetani said. Many audience members showed their disagreement with the statement by holding up a red card, distributed along with a green card, by the activist group “South Portland Air Quality”.

“We do use nickel; there is a component of nickel that comes out and we’re not capturing 100% of it,” Kahetani said. “However it is a form of nickel that is less bio-available, so it is less available to do harm to us.”

Silverberg said, “We can see a lot of folks aren't buying that answer. This may be one thing you're going to have to bring more information on, back to people, the next time around.

“Explain the arsenic and hexavalent chromium emissions, and whether or not you think the community should be concerned,” Silverberg said, moving the program along.

“We do not use arsenic in our metals or in our process,” Kahetani responded. “The DEQ data [on arsenic] looks to be very close to the ‘urban background’ readings.

As to hexavalent chromium, a small amount of chromium does convert to hexavalent chromium,” Kahetani continued. “The number that we saw in the DEQ test data showed a metric just slightly above the annual benchmark. But again, with our control systems, we’re looking at a capture rate of 99% of any chromium that is produced through the manufacturing process.”

Silverberg asked Johnson to explain why, now, they’re engaging with the community.

“We’re doing this because I am committed to this,” Johnson said. “We have a website and an e-mail address [to foster communication with the community]. We stumble around. I know there are disappointments with the venue location here for this meeting. Again, two years ago, you probably heard the same thing.”

Sarah Clark, a representative of “South Portland Air Quality” read a lengthy statement outlining historic and current health and safety concerns of the organization. Clark listed five specific actions that PCC take. She ended her statement, reading “We demand real change.”

At the conclusion of the reading, applause broke out, and green cards signaling participants’ approval shot up around the room.

“From the reception of that statement,” Johnson acknowledged, “I see what's needed: More transparency, better stewardship, and advanced, health-based [pollution emission] controls.”

A woman in the audience said her children’s urine tests showed elevated levels of nickel in their bodies.

Asked specifically to answer yes or no, whether or not nickel coming out of the manufacturing plant, absorbed by the body, Proctor replied, “We are studying that right now. Yes, there is a form of nickel can be absorbed into the body, but not all forms of nickel are up absorbed in the same way. We are specifically trying to do is to assess whether or not our emissions are in a form that can be absorbed.”

To the question why PCC hasn’t yet applied for a DEQ permit, Johnson said that DEQ and OHA are in the process of establishing new standards. “We want to make sure that we are in compliance with those levels, with the new equipment we’ve installed.”

When asked if the filtration equipment can actually capture chromium and nickel particles, Tom Wood, an attorney with Stoel Rives, stepped up to say he’s worked with the company's emissions permitting for about 22 years.

Wood described the filtering equipment in detail. “The manufacturer’s rating says it will control 99.97% of all the particles in 0.3 µ.  A fine human hair is 70 µ in diameter.  When you're talking about .3 µ, you're talking about an incredibly fine particle.”

The company promised to schedule another meeting in September, this time at a location within the neighborhood, most likely at a school.

The DEQ reported that they’ve placed two additional monitors near PCC, and the results will be available in mid-June. Meantime, Precision Castparts’ local operation is online at: http://pccstructuralscommunity.com



Train Day, Rail Heritage Museum, SP 4449
Crowds attending Portland Train Day were funneled between two historic steam locomotives – Nickel Plate Road #190, and SP&S #700 – inside the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Thousands make tracks to “Portland Train Day”

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

The promotional information from the Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC) heralded the party as “Trains, trains, trains!” And a great many people saw exactly that, during “Portland Train Day, 2016”.

Parking was scarce in the ORHC lot near OMSI, under the Oregon Highway 99E viaduct, on Saturday, May 14 – as old and young came to see and touch railroading history at the Center.

“National Train Day” was started by Amtrak in 2008 as a way to promote railway travel and preserve railroad history. It’s held each year on the Saturday closest to May 10, the anniversary of the installation of the Golden spike in Promontory, Utah, which marked the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

Amtrak, however, discontinued this celebration earlier this year, blaming “financial challenges”. So the local organization stepped up to keep it going – in Portland, at least.

“We’re resurrecting Portland’s celebration of trains, with the first annual Portland Train Day,” smiled ORHC Executive Director Colleen O'Dell, as guests swirled around her at the entrance to Portland’s unique working rail museum. “Today, we’re joining other organizations as they hold independent ‘Train Day’ celebrations across the country.”

Portland has a long and substantial history as a rail town, O'Dell pointed out. “And, here at the museum, we have three of Portland’s steam locomotives. The City of Portland is one of the very few cities that own steam locomotives that have been restored, or are in the restoration process by scores of volunteers.”

Families were amazed by massive Lego model train railroad displays; gawked at the huge, authentic locomotives inside the museum; and marveled at the huge, once-again-operating SP #4449 locomotive as it steamed-up in the yard.

“We’re keeping count, and a little over 2,000 people have come through our doors since opening at 10 a.m.,” O'Dell said. “We’re so happy to be able to show off this beautiful building, and showcase our volunteers and these amazing locomotives, of which we are the caretakers.”

Find out more about the ORHC by visiting their website: http://www.orhf.org



Harold Street, crash, head-on
This head-on crash – on Friday night, April 29, on S.E. 17th Avenue at Harold Street – caused an injury, wrecked two vehicles, splintered a median tree, flattened a city warning sign, littered the street with debris, and closed 17th Avenue for hours. The pickup’s driver was handcuffed and arrested for driving intoxicated. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

DUII head-on crash blocks SE 17th in Westmoreland; driver arrested

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

Those living near S.E. 17th in north Westmoreland may have heard an extended clatter at 10:10 p.m. on Friday evening, April 29; one resident commented to THE BEE that it sounded as if some big flatbed truck had lost an entire load of scrap metal in the street.

That wasn’t what actually happened, but it certainly resulted in considerable scrap metal; and it blocked 17th Avenue for hours that night.

A large pickup truck, speeding northward on S.E. 17th, had entered the intersection at Harold Street successfully, but for unexplained reasons veered to the left and departed the intersection by driving right over a concrete median planter, splintering a tree growing there and flattening a PBOT warning sign – and then smashing into the front end of a sedan that had been traveling south.

Wreckage and tree parts were scattered for over a half a block. TriMet Bus 70 had just passed Insley Street and was blocked, just north of the wreck. Passengers were offloaded as the bus remained at the scene, while several police officers investigated the crash.

Although the driver of the sedan had to be helped out of her car by firefighters from Westmoreland Station 20, she was walking and speaking on her phone shortly afterward. Nonetheless, an ambulance responded, and police listed the crash as an injury accident.

As for the driver of the pickup, who appeared uninjured – after beginning to interview him, two officers asked him to walk a white line in the street; and, after further investigation, 31 year old Eric Sands was handcuffed and arrested for DUII – “Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants” – according to Portland Police spokesman Greg Stewart.

The smashed tree had been planted by a nearby resident, to replace one previously installed by the City of Portland, which had disappeared one night quite some time ago – presumably after also having been flattened by a passing vehicle. That resident told THE BEE he was not discouraged, and was planning to try again with yet another tree. A city tree planted in the opposite median on the south side of the intersection has survived.

The investigation and street cleanup lasted well past midnight, but by morning the street had been swept and reopened.



Puppet Museum, Rose Festival, float, Friar Tuck
Steven Overton of Sellwood’s Portland Puppet Museum shows BEE readers the rendering of the Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade’s City of Sherwood mini-float – while his dad, Ken, here in the background, is layered in tape – patiently modeling for Friar Tuck. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Rose Festival float created at Sellwood Puppet Museum

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

Some people prepare for the Rose Festival by growing roses. Others celebrate by wrapping their father in duct tape. As you’ll see as you read on, this odd ritual actually makes perfect sense….

For a couple of weeks in mid-May, marionettes and hand puppets were moved to the side in Sellwood’s Portland Puppet Museum, as proprietors Steven Overton and Marty Richmond went to work on the sixth float they’ve designed and crafted for the Portland Rose Festival’s Grand Floral Parade.

“This is entered in the ‘miniature float’ category, and promotes the Robin Hood Festival and the City of Sherwood, here in Oregon,” said Overton.

Overton, Richmond, and their helpers had little time to talk – as his dad, Ken Overton, patiently sat propped in a chair, as they stuck layer after layer of duct tape on him.

“My dad is the model for Friar Tuck,” Overton explained. “Instead of building an armature and figure from scratch, we’re covering my dad with tape.

“We’ll cut him out of the tape, and use it to create a form, fill that with foam, and then papier-mâché the entire character. Mounted on the back of the float, Friar Tuck will be riding on a whiskey barrel, floating down the river to ‘find fun in Sherwood’.”

They’ll be taking the decoration pieces to a warehouse in Sherwood where they will assemble the parts and pieces, and then cover the float with flowers, seeds, and other organic materials.

“We’ll carefully truck the float up to Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the morning of the parade; we’ll help the two live actors – costumed as Robin Hood and Maid Marian – onto the float.”

Whether you come to watch it in person, or see it on TV, keep your eye out for this unique float – created right here in Inner Southeast Portland, on S.E. Umatilla Street, thanks to duct tape and a very patient dad.



Sellwood Bridge, girder
With three girders already in place, a fourth girder is slowly lifted from the trailer.

Sellwood Bridge Project: Inching closer to its end

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

Those who commonly use the Sellwood Bridge found it closed to all traffic, including pedestrians and bicycles, all day on Friday, May 20.

The barricades closed off the bridge at S.E. Tacoma Street promptly at 6 a.m., as construction crews began one of the final phases of construction.

Below the unfinished northern segment of the bridge at the east end, two large cranes sat ready to pluck concrete girders, one at a time, off semi-truck-trailer rigs, and place them on the waiting piers.

“During the day, we’ll see 13 concrete girders installed, across four spans of the east approach to the new bridge,” commented Multnomah County project spokesman Mike Pullen, as the cranes were just repositioning to lift the fourth girder into place.


Sellwood Bridge, crane, girders
Mere inches from the the Riverpark Condominiums and Townhomes buildings, a brawny crane moves into position to lift concrete girders onto the bridge. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

T.Y. Lin International Bridge Engineer Eric Rau was also there at the worksite, and observed that these girders were cast months ago, at the same time others were manufactured that are already in use elsewhere on the bridge. 

“Because the concrete has cured longer, each of these girders have a little bit of ‘camber growth’ [arching], which is accounted for in the design,” explained Rau.

Each of the “Bulb-I” precast concrete girders is 66” deep, up to 110' long, and weighs up to 75,000 pounds each, Rau said.

What is a “Bulb-I” precast concrete girder? “This indicates that, unlike the square geometries of steel I-beams and H-beams, the bottom is flared out – partially for strength, partially to provide for runoff keeping it from being a flat surface,” clarified Multnomah County Bridge Engineer Chuck Maggio.

Working in unison, and with amazing precision, the crane operators first lifted a girder off the trailer, swung it slowly over the railing, and then let it hover over its socket. Crews, perched on both ends of the piers, untangled the rebar coming up from the pier and the rebar protruding from the girder.

With the bearing pads in place, the girder was slowly lowered into its final position.

Is if performing an industrial ballet, each empty trailer drove off the bridge, and a loaded rig then pulled up into position, ready to be unloaded.

“It’s difficult to predict how long work like this will take, but this part of the project went well, and the Sellwood Bridge reopened to traffic at 8:15 p.m. the same evening,” Pullen later reported.

The final target date for all work on the bridge and its approaches to be completed and signed-off on is approximately Thanksgiving. THE BEE will continue to keep you up to date each month on the progress, until everything is done.





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