More stories from October's issue of THE BEE!

Sellwood Bridge
This is a BEE-exclusive photo juxtaposing the old and new Sellwood Bridges, taken from between the “angel wings” of Bent 5 in the middle of the Willamette River. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Sellwood Bridge: Acres of rebar


In the same places THE BEE toured for last month’s pictorial on the surface of the new Sellwood Bridge, weeks later the concrete deck forms were covered with layers of cross-hatched rebar.

“This will probably be the first deck section to be poured,” remarked our tour guide, and the Multnomah County Sellwood Bridge spokesman, Mike Pullen, during a September tour of the project.

All that rebar felt to us like stepping out on a giant mattress box spring! Our tour continued, stories below the deck, on the east-side work bridge.

About mid-river, a diesel impact hammer was fastened to the top of a piling. But, Pullen pointed out that it was being used to dislodge and pull a piling out of the river, not drive it in.

“The crew from Advanced American Construction is in the process of pulling out the piles for the arch supports, which supported the falsework [temporary supports] for the installation of the main bridge spans over the river,” Pullen advised.

“We want to get as much of the piling as we can out of the river before our in-river work period ends in October,” Pullen explained. “On the west side, the old pilings for Staff Jennings’ dock have been cut down, but are still above the height of the river.”

Over the next months, while the new bridge is being completed up top, crews will be removing the work bridges on either side of the river, Pullen reported, and they will be pulling out hundreds of piles.

There has been a lot of progress on the west side interchange, he said, which is good for anyone who crosses the bridge.  “Starting in November, the drivers will be able to start using the new ramps that have been built in the project.”

There is good news for merchants for the upcoming holiday season, too, Pullen said. “We do not plan any bridge closures for the rest of the year.”

Pressed to reveal the opening date for the new bridge, Pullen said, “It looks like it might be March, 2016.

“We’re a little behind schedule, but the contractor expects to finish all work by Thanksgiving in 2016. It will be a busy time for them, next summer, to finish a remaining small piece of the East approach, remove the old bridge, and install the amenities.”

But the bridge could be open for you to use in March, while that finishing work goes on.

Powell and 33rd, fatal auto crash
After popping up over the sidewalk on S.E. Powell Boulevard in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood, this Mustang GT slammed into a steel utility pole. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Single-car crash proves fatal, on Powell Blvd.


It’s a mystery why a dark green two-door Ford Mustang GT popped up over the curb on S.E. Powell Boulevard, a short distance from S.E. 33rd Avenue, at 4 pm on Wednesday, September 16th.

What happened next made the odd accident a fatality: The Mustang snapped off a TriMet stop sign, and then smashed straight into a steel utility pole. When the car had stopped, the utility pole was intruding about a third of the way in the vehicle on the driver’s side.

The crew of Woodstock Fire Truck 25 used the powerful Holmatro rescue tools, sometimes called the “Jaws of Life”, to snip off the roof supports and gain access to the 61-year-old man trapped inside.

However, “Medical personnel determined that the driver of the vehicle was deceased,” reported Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.

Twenty-one police units, including cars from the Traffic Divisions Major Crash Team, responded to the deadly wreck; eastbound traffic on Powell Boulevard was closed down completely throughout evening rush hour.

Police Investigators later confirmed that the driver had been eastbound on Powell Boulevard and drove over the south curbline, shearing off a TriMet bus stop sign and striking an ODOT light/camera pole on the southwest corner of 33rd Avenue and Powell.

The snapped bus stop sign struck a stopped vehicle on 33rd Avenue.

“Investigators are awaiting toxicology results on the driver, before determining if impairment was a factor in this crash,” Simpson said. “His name is not being released at this time, as family has not yet been located, or notified of his death,” he added.

Hood To Coast Relay
Brenna Archibald takes the “Archibald Trotters” wristband from her twin, Jenna Archibald, at the Johnson Creek/Springwater Trail exchange point for the Hood To Coast relay this year. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Hundreds of “Coasters” jog through Sellwood


Since 1982, bands of runners have raced down the highway from Mt. Hood bound for the Pacific Ocean, in late August, participating in the “Hood To Coast Relay”.

This year, the teams of a dozen runners each passed through Inner Southeast Portland on the afternoon and evening of August 28.

The “transfer point” in for Inner Southeast – that’s the place where one team member hands off his or her numbered wrist strap to the next runner – was again where the Springwater Trail crosses Johnson Creek Boulevard.

Team vans with fresh runners parked at the Precision Cast Parts upper lot on S.E. Harney Drive in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, where they replaced their participant who’d run the 4.51 mile “Leg #10” that started in Lents.

There, the next teammate took the strap, and headed into “Leg #11” – a 6.4 mile jaunt across the Springwater Trail bridge over S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard, through Sellwood, and along the Willamette River to the next transfer station under the east side of the Hawthorne Bridge.

“In total, 1,050 runners passed through the Sellwood area,” Hood to Coast Chief Operating Officer Dan Floyd later told THE BEE. “These runners were representatives of their respective 12-person teams, of the total of 19,000 runners who participated in the race.”

Gas leak, Bybee Boulevard, sewer project, Moreland Presbyterian
A Northwest Natural worker, dressed in an anti-static “bunny suit”, hops down into the excavated hole to make the repairs to the broken gas pipe. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Gas line rupture briefly closes Bybee in Westmoreland


An excavation mishap temporarily brought to a halt the lengthy Sellwood-Westmoreland Sewer Rehabilitation Project, at 2 pm on Wednesday, September 16: That was when contractors ruptured a half-inch natural gas line on S.E. 18th Avenue at Bybee Boulevard, across from Moreland Presbyterian Church.

A contractor of the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) was digging in the street about 50 feet north of Bybee Boulevard, and the bucket of a backhoe cut through the gas line.

When THE BEE arrived, the smell of mercaptan – that’s the chemical added to odorless natural gas, to give it a “rotten egg” odor – was strong in the air and the gas was whistling from the ruptured line.

The crew from Westmoreland’s nearby Fire Station 20 blocked westbound Bybee Boulevard; the firefighters hooked up to a fire hydrant and were standing by with a pressurized water line to provide “exposure protection” if needed.

It didn’t take long for a crew from Northwest Natural Gas to arrive and repair the gas line.

“The contractor was excavating in the street to replace a lateral pipe – that’s the pipe that extends from the public sewer in the street over to the curb, where private property owners connect to it,” BES Public Information Officer Linc Mann told THE BEE. 

The Bureau always follows the “Locate before you dig” rule, Mann assured us.

But in this case, he said, “The [indicated] location of the natural gas line was about five feet away from where it actually was. That doesn’t happen frequently, but it does happen.”

This is part of the ongoing BES project to repair or replace about 25,000 feet of public sewer pipes in the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood that are between 80 and 100 years old, and failing due to age. Virtually the entire neighborhood south of Reedway Street has been affected.

By the way, this project is currently on schedule to wrap up in January.

Lucy Ferguson, National Geographic, Russian tortoise, Francisco
Woodstock’s Lucy Ferguson shows off the “star” of her award-winning video – a Russian tortoise named Francisco. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Woodstock girl wins National Geographic video contest


Southeast Portland has a new celebrity – a seven-year-old Russian tortoise named Francisco.

It wasn’t anything Francisco did, other than munching on clover in her owner’s back yard, that made him famous.

Francisco’s owner, 10-year old Lucy Ferguson, a Woodstock resident and a fifth-grader at Southeast Portland’s Creative Science School, took notice of the “Funniest Pet Video” contest notice in the June issue of the “National Geographic Kids” magazine.

Lucy said a video she took of their dog rolling around on the carpet after a bath looked pretty funny.

“Then, we were out in the yard, and I set Francisco down and watched him while he was eating clover,” Lucy told THE BEE. “He loves eating clover. I was ‘helping’ him, by holding him so he hovered above the ground while he was eating the clover.”

Video of the tortoise, cheerfully chomping clover flowers while being suspended in the air, was the funnier of the two videos, Lucy decided. “And, we thought there would be probably be a lot less competition in the tortoise category – ‘Scales, Fins & Feathers’!”

After overcoming a number of “technical difficulties” encountered when producing the video, Lucy said she sent it in with the title, “Earth-Friendly Weed Control”, and then didn’t think much more about it.

“In July, when we were on vacation, I got an e-mail saying that I’d won first place in my category!” Lucy said. “Then, in August, I found out that I won first place for the entire contest!”

In addition to winning various prizes – a tablet, some “National Geographic Kids” books, and “other cool stuff”, Lucy’s entry was re-edited by singer-songwriter Parry Gripp, who composed an original soundtrack for the video, which is now online.

While the accolades for taking the top prize in a national competition may fade, Lucy says she’s just happy to have Francisco’s company. “I plan to keep him healthy and happy for the rest of his life.”

For the time being, you can see the finished production online at:

Pedestrian hit by car, Foster Road, gets up and walks away
Paramedics check out a pedestrian who was struck by a car on S.E. Foster Road: He was knocked in the air by the impact, smashed down on the car’s windshield, then rolled into the street…after which he got up and walked away. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Tipsy pedestrian rises and walks away – after being hit by car


Police and paramedics rushed to the intersection of S.E. Foster Road at 65th Avenue on Tuesday evening, September 15, at 9 pm, responding to a “pedestrian struck by vehicle” call.

A two-door Audi coupe was stopped facing westbound in the intersection as they arrived – several feet behind a marked pedestrian crossing on the rain-dampened street.

The car’s windshield was shattered across its width, with a small area punched through near the center – indicating that the pedestrian had struck it with considerable force.

Woodstock Fire Station 25’s engine and truck company, and its firefighter/paramedics, were soon on hand, examining the struck pedestrian where he lay in the center of the crosswalk.

The driver stayed at the scene, and told a Portland Police Traffic Division officer that she’d been westbound on Foster Road. Before her car entered the intersection at S.E. 65th Avenue, the driver said that the victim had been jaywalking, and “stumbled” in front of her car. She could not avoid hitting him, she contended.

To the surprise of emergency medical personnel and onlookers, the struck pedestrian whose airborne body had smashed the Audi’s windshield, slowly stood up from the pavement and continued talking with them. After several minutes of discourse, the AMR ambulance crew standing by packed up their backboard, and rolled away their gurney, without a patient.

But wait – the pedestrian then clambered into the back of the ambulance, and the doors closed; but the ambulance didn’t leave. Instead, about ten minutes later, the man emerged from the ambulance again.

When asked for clarification about what had occurred, PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson looked up the record for THE BEE.

“According to the report, the pedestrian had been doing a bit of drinking, and stumbled into the street in front of a moving vehicle,” Simpson said. “Apparently he was not seriously injured.”

The driver of the car wasn’t cited in the crash. “They didn’t cite the pedestrian, either,” Simpson commented.

Rhine Street, Lafayette Street, overcrossing, Brooklyn neighborhood, Union Pacific, TriMet
First-time visitors enjoy the view from deck of the new “Rhine-Lafayette Pedestrian Overpass”. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

New Rhine-Lafayette Street pedestrian overpass opens


It’s probably no big deal for folks who don’t live, work, or go to school in Brooklyn. But, a trip across the old Lafayette Street footbridge across the Brooklyn rail yard, originally built in 1943, was a harrowing experience for students and adults alike.

On September 2, the new – and, community members say, vastly improved – Rhine-Lafayette Street pedestrian overpass opened with a ribbon-cutting.

“The new bridge improves connections for people biking and walking in the Brooklyn neighborhood to and from Cleveland High School, Winterhaven School, Fred Meyer headquarters, and the S.E. 17th Avenue and Rhine Street MAX Station, and nearby bus stops,” said TriMet’s Mary Fetch, ready to try out the bridge herself, with her bicycle. 

The $3.9 million bridge replacement project split its costs between the TriMet Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project, which put up $2.2 million, and Union Pacific, which spent $1.7 million.

The new bridge is vastly different from the former overcrossing. “The old bridge felt really rickety, and many neighbors felt unsafe on it,” commented Brooklyn Action Corps Chair Eric Wieland.

There were few options for those who didn’t want to make the crossing, Wieland added. “Our students, for example, otherwise had to go to Holgate or Powell Boulevard, which presented their own challenges. Some chose to go across the railroad yard itself.” In one case, with fatal results.

The new bridge, Wieland said, gives the Brooklyn neighborhood a safe, central crossing. “It’s key to building more of a community feeling here.”

Officials at the brief ceremony pointed out the new amenities – including glass elevators, a twelve-foot wide walkway, eight-foot wide stairways, good lighting, and bike gutters that make moving bicycles up and down the stairs easier.

The new public art project installed with the new overcrossing is a tree-like sculpture by Anne Storrs entitled “Along These Lines”, and which was inspired by the adjacent rail tracks, she said.

Those at the bridge opening admired the words, engraved in a metal band ringing the tree sculpture on the west side, and a “medallion” on the east side, with verse by Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita Paulann Petersen, a Sellwood resident. 

With a snip of the ceremonial ribbon, the bridge was open. Both officials and neighbors boarded the elevator and walked up the stairs, and safely crossed over the railroad tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad Yard below.

Floating bikes, Ross Island wedding
Groom Karl Anderson & bride Elizabeth Raffer are depicted with “The Kobiyashi Maru” – a watercraft they named after a famous cadet test in the world of Star Trek, involving a no-win scenario. (Photo by Rita A. Leonard)

Floating bikes cross Willamette River for unique wedding


A unique wedding party floated to Ross Island on August 21. The happy couple was accompanied by friends, prepared to camp overnight and watch the TriMet fireworks on the new Tilikum Crossing transit bridge.

The 30 or so participants – members of an alternative bike club known as “C.H.U.N.K.666” – had modified their bicycles with repurposed materials to make them floating “aqua-bikes” in order to pedal across the river.

The group, including Rev. Lucy Hinds and some visitors from out-of-state, congregated in the area of S.E. 13th and Clinton Street to assemble their amphibious vehicles amid a happy ambiance of friendship and celebration. Groom Karl Anderson and his bride Elizabeth Raffer put together their wedding chariot with four industrial-size white plastic barrels, a small cart for the bride, several large brightly-colored pompoms, and a red flag. 

Other vehicles in the procession used a variety of flotation devices – including inner tubes, large plastic drums attached to wooden 2 x 4's, a small plastic skiff on wheels (for overland transport), and a variety of outriggers. Each vehicle was designed for water transport in some fashion: One with a sternwheel contraption, another with lengthened foot pedal attachments, and several more supplemented with paddles.

A first? No, actually this was the group’s tenth annual river crossing; and while not all the modified bikes have been successful in the crossing over the years, the bicyclists have all had great fun, have made design improvements, and have enjoyed characteristically hilarious adventures. The gathering of aqua-bikes took practice runs along S.E. Clinton Street, confounding drivers of other passing vehicles on the roadway, most of whom appeared amused at the happy mayhem.

Anderson explained, “Our purpose is to do something useful with trash that has been thrown out, to prepare for an apocalyptic future when we'll all have to make do with whatever is around. Most of the flotation devices are plastic, attached with duct tape, bungees, zip-ties, and baling wire. There are chunks of Styrofoam, box wine skins, plastic bags, and bottles – whatever works.”

“No one has died during the event,” he continued brightly, duct-taping a plastic drum to one of the outriggers on his bicycle. “We camp out on Ross Island, and come back the next day. It’s a paradise down there. There are blackberries, grapes, deer, geese, and chuds (small water mammals). We even found a treasure chest one time, chained to a tree. We go down the Springwater Trail near the Oregon Rail Heritage Museum, then cross the river at a low spot. We bring field repair tools, since things periodically fall off the vehicles.”

Costumes were in abundance for the wedding party; everything from pirate gear to black tie and tails. The bride was dressed in a lovely white dress (suitable for falling into the water), with a backpack and flowers in her hair, riding in the “Kobiyashi Maru”. Many of the other amphibious craft had names as well, including “Karakatoa with the Family Truxter”, “The Willamaconda”, “The Duck”, “The S.S. Guest List”, and “Son of Soren” with Capt. Drunkle and crew – and a loyal pooch named Ursula, who wore a paper sailor hat.

By 3pm, most of the aquanauts were assembled and ready to go. Anderson made a final announcement: “I just want you all to know: There's a toxic algae bloom in the lagoon, and TriMet fireworks at the Tilikum Crossing Bridge are scheduled tonight for 9 pm.”

Under the hazy overcast of smoke from eastern Oregon forest fires, and highlighted by occasional cries from a nearby osprey nest atop a cell phone tower, the procession pedaled off onto the adjacent bikeway and Springwater Trail, ready to share in the highly unusual sunset nuptials of fellow adventurers from C.H.U.N.K.666.

Powell fatal, auto accident
Portland East Precinct officers close off S.E. Powell Boulevard, in the Foster-Powell neighborhood, to investigate and clear away a single-car ultimately-fatal crash. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Speeding driver, ejected in Powell crash, dies


A maroon 1995 Nissan Altima was racing eastbound on S.E. Powell Boulevard on Sunday morning, September 6th, at 6:50 am, when it smashed into a tree in the median near S.E. 78th Avenue.

A Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Traffic Division sergeant at the scene said the vehicle appeared to have been driving “at a high rate of speed” when the driver’s side tires “climbed the curb” three times before spinning out, jumping the median curb, and colliding with a tree.

The driver, later identified as 23-year-old Jane Taylor Robson, was ejected from the car in the single-car crash, suffering life-threatening injuries. Robson was entered into the Citywide Trauma System as she was rushed to a Portland hospital.

“I don’t see how she can live after being thrown out of a car like that,” ramarked Liên Nguyễn, who said she’d been waiting for a bus when the crash occurred.

“I was looking the other way, and I heard the tires make noise, and then ‘bang!’ – so loud,” Nguyễn told THE BEE. “I looked, and there it was,” she added.

Two days later, PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson confirmed that Robson remained in critical condition. “Investigators believe that alcohol was a contributing factor in the crash,” he said.

Then, on Wednesday, September 9th, Simpson followed up, saying, “Early this morning, officers were notified that Jane Taylor Robson died at a Portland hospital as a result of the injuries she suffered in Sunday’s crash.”

Caboose, rescue
Riggers prepare the caboose to be lifted. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Tenino Street caboose saved from demolition; sent to new home


There wasn’t anything unusual about a stubby red caboose, with single side windows on the copula, which had rolled out of the Pacific Car & Foundry Company yard near Seattle in 1921, ordered by the Northern Pacific Railroad.

But, the story about how it was almost demolished – then saved – nine decades later is fascinating.

For years, the caboose rolled along, clicking and clacking across Pacific Northwest tracks, serving as the Conductor’s mobile office. Later, it became a Burlington Northern Railroad caboose, before being retired from service in the early 1980s.

The then 60-year-old caboose was literally “put out pasture” when it was moved to the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek/Woodstock neighborhood in 1981. The owner of the house just west of 4320 S.E. Tenino Street was said to have loved trains – and made the caboose into a modest guest apartment, complete with City of Portland approved water, sewer, and electricity.

Parked on rails leading nowhere, on the dead-end segment of the street with trees growing in front of it, the caboose went pretty much unnoticed for decades.

In 2005, the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services purchased the property as part of their restoration plan for Johnson Creek.

Several people expressed interest in procuring the caboose – but none of the offers panned out. Even when the city tried to give away the now 90-year-old antique railcar, no one had the resources to move it from its bucolic location.

That is, until the Kurt Bruun, of Lorentz Bruun Company, Inc., heard about the caboose.

“When we learned that the city was going to demolish it and haul it off as scrap, we thought of a good way to ‘recycle’ the caboose,” Bruun said, while riggers were figuring out how to move the railcar on the morning of August 21.

On hand was Richard A. Samuels, owner of Sellwood’s Oregon Pacific Railroad Company – he’s the one who filled THE BEE in on the caboose’s history – showing the crane riggers where to place steel cable slings and support blocks to safely lift the car, and swing it onto an awaiting “low-boy” heavy-duty semi truck trailer.

With lifting cables under the frame of the car, Samuels eyed the pinch points and suggested moving the slings slightly, and adding and shifting blocks, before the car was hoisted.

“They’ll lift it off the ‘iron trucks’ [wheel assembly] and move them separately,” Samuels said. “The trucks have brass fittings; I’m surprised to see the brass still there!”

Once hooked up to the powerful crane, the operator slowly lifted the car off its trucks. Once airborne, with the help of riggers tugging on ropes, the operator deftly slid it sideway between two tall trees, and carefully set it on the trailer.

Bruun was on-site, keeping an eye on the project, while he advised on other company projects by cell phone.

The weathered caboose was clearly in need of restoration, but the basic construction was solid, Bruun observed. “We’re going to restore it at the Oregon Pacific Railroad yard in Milwaukie,” he said.

When it’s completed, with the help of Dick Samuels, they’ll roll it next to their “Bruun Dock Studios”, the building with huge glass door bays overlooking the Oregon Rail Heritage Museum, just south of the TriMet MAX Light Rail Orange Line.

The story of this caboose is far from over. In fact, its new life is just beginning.

Sherrett Street, street art, Orange Line, MAX, light rail, Ardenwald
One of the volunteers who helped paint the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek Neighborhood Association’s Sherrett Street art, Margi Shindler, spiffed it up on the day before the MAX Light Rail Orange Line opening. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Sherrett “street art” welcomes MAX riders to Ardenwald


For years, neighbors in Inner Southeast Portland on S.E. Sherrett Street at 9th Avenue have painted and revised street art in the intersection they call “Share-in Square”. The project even won an award from the Governor at the time it began, which still hangs on the wall over the water fountain at SMILE Station in Sellwood.

On September 6th of this year, on the very same street but 21 blocks to the east, the Ardenwald neighborhood got its first street mural – at Sherrett’s intersection with S.E. 30th Avenue.

“We had scheduled our ‘painting party’ for the previous Sunday, but we postponed it a week, due to inclement weather,” explained the project’s organizer, the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek Neighborhood Association’s Transportation Chair, Angelene Falconer.

“This project got started with the neighborhood getting together, and talking about the new TriMet MAX light rail Orange Line opening,” Falconer went on. “It’s to welcome newcomers who will be walking through here, and to celebrate with our neighbors.”

Falconer pointed out that a block west of the street art’s location is an entrance to the Springwater Trail. “From there, it’s a short five-minute walk to the new MAX station. We thought this would be a good spot to highlight all the things that we love about our neighborhood.”

Because Ardenwald straddles both Clackamas and Multhomah Counties, and is partly in Portland and partly in Milwaukie, the mural – eighteen feet in diameter – depicts how the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek Neighborhood connects to both counties as well as to both cities, Falconer said.

Light rain fell occasionally during the seven-hour painting project; but canopies and tarps kept the work area dry as city and neighborhood leaders, neighborhood residents, and friends, helped to paint the design and fill in the color.

The art circle is symbolic, Falconer made clear – starting at the center, with a “Portland rose” on the north side, and dogwood petal representing Milwaukie on the south side. Milwaukie was originally known as the “Dogwood City of the West”, if you didn’t know.

The outer ring’s six sections contain:

  • A pink field, with the Portland city skyline and historic Oaks Amusement Park;
  • A yellow field, for the “Davis Graveyard” annual Hallowe’en display on Johnson Creek Boulevard;
  • A purple field, for trees and mountains;
  • A red field featuring a tribute to Dark Horse Comics, roosters (allowed in Milwaukie) and geese;
  • A brown field for the Coho salmon spawning in Johnson Creek;
  • And an orange field featuring – as you have probably guessed – the new Portland-Milwaukie TriMet MAX Orange Line, and the new Tilikum Crossing transit bridge.

“The best part of it, for me, is that all these people are having a good time,” reflected Falconer. “The kids are getting into it, the neighbors are laughing and having fun. We’re looking forward to new visitors to our neighborhood enjoying our street, as we are.”

MAX, Union Pacific, public art, Velosaurus
Here’s some of the underpass artwork by Horatio Law on Powell Boulevard in Brooklyn, collectively called “Velosaurus”. It’s created from recycled parts of bicycles. (Photo by Rita A. Leonard)

“Velosaurus” lurks beneath Powell railroad overpass at 17th


At first glance, you might think TriMet had unearthed a fossil when building the flyover ramp for the MAX trains to cross S.E. Powell Boulevard. But a second and closer glance would tell you that, no, it’s public art! Bones never had gears like that.

The Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project features abundant public artwork along its path, including two unique dinosaur skeleton murals placed along the Powell Boulevard underpass beneath the Union Pacific and MAX light rail crossing at S.E. 17th.

Just prior to the September 12th Orange Line opening, protective coverings were removed from the murals, exposing the two sets of four panels, each installed along the bikeway/walkway walls. The artwork conveys a sense of “lurking danger” in the dark passageway, as well as both Portland’s bicycling and recycling cultures, since the “skeletons” are made of recycled bike and skateboard parts, embedded in concrete.

Mural artist Horatio Law created the artwork, collectively called “Velosaurus”, with a vision of transportation images in mind. He realized that white painted bike parts could be arranged to resemble dinosaur bones, and collected a supply from several local bike shops. The underpass site suggested geological diggings to him, and the backgrounds are rendered in brown earth tones.

White bike fenders make admirable dinosaur ribs, separated by bike pedal vertebrae. The north panels represent two creatures meeting or fighting each other, while the south panels present a more serpentine image, bounded at each end by dinosaur skulls resembling a Triceratops and Tyranosaurus Rex.

The images put one in mind of archaeological exploration while celebrating Portland's growing cultures of biking and skateboarding.

Pedestrians and passing drivers stalled in Powell Boulevard traffic can admire the creativity expressed in these unique “public art” murals, reliving images of the fantastic ancient era when dinosaurs ruled the earth. 

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