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County closing Morrison Bridge lanes to replace steel grates starting Monday

Release:2011-07-15   Edit:Admin   From:Rising steel grating
For as long as it has spanned the Willamette River, the Morrison Bridge’s open steel grating has required an easy-does-it crossing for motorists, especially on rainy days.

But it looks like the slipping and swerving is about to end.

On Monday, Multnomah County will start a summer of lane closures on the bridge as crews work to replace the decades-old steel grating with a new material that should provide better traction.

The $4.2 million project will install solid fiber reinforced polymer panels similar to the ones installed on the Broadway Bridge a few years ago. 

But motorists, TriMet bus riders, cyclists, pedestrians and river traffic will have to endure commuting headaches before the project is completed in the fall:

Crews with Conway Construction of Ridgefield, Wash., will begin work Monday on the south side -- or eastbound lanes -- of the lift span. They will then shift to the north side, or westbound lanes.  

Impacts to bridge traffic include:

All but one westbound lane across the bridge will be closed. However, drivers will not be able to get onto the bridge from Southeast Morrison Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Access from southbound I-5 and I-84 westbound to the Morrison Bridge and downtown Portland will remain open during the project. "Planners felt it was important to keep that route to downtown from the freeways open," said county spokesman Mike Pullen. Alternate bridges for westbound traffic include the Hawthorne and Burnside bridges.
Access to Interstate 5 northbound from Southeast Morrison Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will remain open.
Throughout the project, one eastbound traffic lane will remain open from Southwest 2nd Avenue to where the bridge leads to northbound Interstate 5, eastbound  I-84, Southeast Belmont Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.  
The Southwest Naito Parkway on-ramp to the Morrison Bridge will be closed for the duration of the project.
A year after it was opened, the bike and pedestrian path on the southside of the bridge will be closed. The bridge’s north sidewalk will remain open when the south path is closed. Still, the closure will likely mean an increase in bicycle traffic on the Broadway Bridge and the Hawthorne Bridge, where bike commuters already make up at 20 percent of the daily traffic.
The offramp from the bridge to Southeast Water Avenue will also be closed during work on the south side of the lift span.
TriMet’s 15-Belmont/Northwest 23rd Avenue bus line was re-routed last week across the Hawthorne Bridge during construction.
Due to the work, only one drawbridge leaf will be able to open for river traffic during most of the project, resulting in a tighter squeeze than usual on the river.

Still, many drivers seemed relieved that the county is finally adding some traction to what has long been the city’s most treacherous drawbridge.

Simply changing lanes on the grating in a rainstorm can send vehicles sliding into oncoming traffic or over the edge into the Willamette River.

The speed limit is 35 mph across the bridge, but signs warn motorists “NO LANE CHANGES ON THE STEEL GRATING.”