TriMet’s Steel Bridge MAX Improvements project reaches halfway point on schedule

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The bridge will remain closed to all MAX, bus and auto traffic through Aug. 29

TriMet’s major Steel Bridge MAX Improvements project is on track with two weeks remaining on its schedule. The revitalization effort—more ambitious and complex than past improvements projects—is a huge undertaking, requiring crews to rebuild and modernize a part of the light rail system that every MAX line crosses. The project is set to last through Saturday, Aug. 29, with the bridge re-opening to MAX, bus and automobile traffic on Sunday, Aug. 30.  

All MAX lines have been disrupted due to the project. Shuttle buses continue to take riders across the Willamette River. On the final day of the project, Saturday, Aug. 29, the disruption on the east side expands. This will allow TriMet to run test trains through the rebuilt part of the system near and on the bridge itself to ensure new track, switch and signal equipment work as intended.

Nonstop work moves project forward

The work up to now has included demolition, replacing rail, installing the new switch sections on the west side of the bridge, pouring concrete and putting in the new signal system. Much of the heavy lifting has focused on replacing the track sections and rail on the west side of the bridge where trains move from one set of tracks to another.

A lot of the old rail across the bridge has been pulled out entirely, but we still have a little left to do. By the start of next week, all of the switches and rail will have been removed, and approximately half of the bridge’s rail will have been replaced. All of the work on the rail and switches in this area will reduce the pounding trains take going through there, helping with the maintenance of the vehicles and creating a smoother ride for those on board.

At 108 years old, and one of the busiest crossings on the Willamette River, the Steel Bridge has seen a lot of dynamic movement over the years that makes upgrades like these necessary.

Our signals system is another crucial component that’s being upgraded during our four-week project, which will improve efficiency and minimize delays. As of now, all the new equipment has been installed. This includes three signal cases on the bridge itself and one on the east side approach, along with all their components. The signals’ connections to the rails has not been completed; however, that work is set to take place next week.

Since the start of the project, crews have been working around the clock to perform all the upgrades and improvements that need to be made. Daily tallies vary, but on the busiest day of construction our employees counted as many as 120 people working on the bridge, with the daily average being between 65 and 70 workers. All told, the project is expected to help support around 450 jobs.

MAX disrupted through Aug. 29

While ridership has stayed down about 60% during the project due to the pandemic, TriMet has organized employees from various departments to assist those who must travel right now. Over the past 12 days, more than 100 employee volunteers and 10 dedicated customer service representatives—working more than 322 shifts— have answered questions and helped our customers get around the disruption at shuttle bus stops. Riders can also find out more about the project and how it will affect their trips by visiting trimet.org/steelbridge. They can plan their trips in advance by going to trimet.org/tripplanner.

Those who are riding MAX right now should still anticipate delays of between 30 and 45 minutes for most trips, as trains are running on different schedules and shuttle buses are moving people across the Willamette River. We do encourage that riders consider changing when they ride to avoid busier commute hours or work from home, use the Portland Streetcar, bike or walk, or use other transportation during the project.

The lower deck of the bridge has remained open during the project to bikes and pedestrians. It’s also open to scooters for the first time—but only temporarily through Aug. 29. Lime and BIKETOWN are offering promo discounts during the duration of the project, and their vehicles are being staged at the Rose Quarter Transit Center.

Lime: Get 10 free unlocks for rides starting/ending in the Rose Quarter or Downtown.

Promo code: PORTLIME2020
Expires: 8/29/20

BIKETOWN: Get 50% off a one-month membership for new members.

Promo code: BIKETOWN50
Expires: 8/29/20

Disruption expands on project’s final day

On the project’s final day, Saturday, Aug. 29, the disruption on the east side will expand.  Shuttle buses will serve stations between Lloyd Center/NE 11th Ave and Old Town/Chinatown, and between Albina/Mississippi and Union Station. TriMet employees will be on hand to help people find their shuttle buses.

Making Transit Better

TriMet is continuing to reinvest in the MAX system by tackling projects that will help us maintain safe and reliable service far into the future. These upgrades help reduce the wear and tear on our light rail system and bring the latest technology to older sections, some that have been in use for more than 30 years.

TriMet knows that disruptions such as this are a big inconvenience for our riders, so we thank you for your patience and understanding while we make transit better. Learn about other efforts we’ve been making to improve our service for you.