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News Release
Emergency sewer repairs at N Columbia Boulevard overpass complete; road closure extended through late May for bridge repairs, further investigation of damage (Photo) - 04/05/24

On Wednesday, April 3, City crews repaired a broken pressurized sewer pipe under the N Columbia Boulevard Bridge in industrial North Portland. The break, first reported on March 21, resulted in a large-scale sewage release that was quickly contained. On March 27, crews located and patched a rupture in the pressurized pipe, with final pipe repairs completed this week.

As crews repair the bridge site near the break and investigate the potential for other areas of damage, a detour will remain in place and is expected to last through at least late May. Engineers with Environmental Services, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), and a contractor for Environmental Services have been working together to repair the site and bridge as soon as possible. 

Throughout the incident, Environmental Services maintained sewer service to the entire area, approximately 3,800 acres in North Portland, consisting of mostly commercial and industrial users. The advisory to avoid contact with Columbia Slough’s waters has also expired; lab results from water samples taken earlier in the week show that E. coli levels are below Oregon Department of Environmental Quality standards.

A new phase of repairs

With the final repairs of the pressurized sewer pipe completed, crews are entering a new phase of repairs.

To access and repair the pipe, crews had to dig into the bridge embankment, remove damaged material, and create a workspace for crews to install the new section of pipe. The contractor will rebuild the section of the bridge embankment that was damaged and displaced, which is expected to take several weeks. To restore the road surface, layers of concrete, aggregate, and other specialty materials have to be installed, with time for each layer to cure. 

The embankment at this location required a unique design to prevent settlement of the underlying soils, and it has to be restored in a similar manner, which takes longer than the restoration of a conventional roadway section. The concrete design also adds to the durability of the roadway for the long term, which is especially important for a route that carries heavy freight on a regular basis.

Crews are continuing to investigate the extent of damage to the bridge ramp. The next phase of the investigation will explore whether there are voids inside and below the structure that may have developed from the sewer main break. That investigation could reveal the need for more work, extending the bridge closure timeframe. PBOT continues to monitor the embankment structure and bridge for settlement and related safety concerns. 

Detour via North Marine Drive

While the repairs are made, motor vehicle traffic is detoured via N Marine Drive. Northbound Columbia Boulevard travelers should proceed east to N Portland Boulevard and go west on N Marine Drive to access the Rivergate and Kelley Point areas. Southbound Columbia Boulevard travelers should go east on Marine Drive, then south on Portland Boulevard to reach Columbia Boulevard south of the bridge.

Bicycle and pedestrian travel is allowed on the bridge, but people traveling in the area need to follow all directions from work crews and posted construction signage at the site. There may be times when a full closure is needed for repairs.

We encourage everyone to continue to avoid the area and use alternate routes.


About Environmental Services
Environmental Services - the City of Portland’s sewer and stormwater utility - protects public health and the environment by collecting and recovering resources from the city’s wastewater, managing stormwater, and restoring and protecting Portland’s rivers, streams, and watersheds. Learn more at portland.gov/bes 

About Portland Bureau of Transportation

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is the steward of the city’s transportation system and a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage, and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides access and mobility. Learn more at portland.gov/transportation