In 2015 Multnomah County took a look at the six Willamette River bridges it maintains to see if any of them need repairs or improvement. We wrote a report about what we learned called the Willamette River Bridges Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

The plan shows the Burnside Bridge needs the most repairs. The Burnside Bridge is located in the heart of downtown and serves many people. Their safety is important. For that reason, we decided to make it the first bridge to improve.

What repairs needed to be made?

The purpose of the Burnside Bridge Maintenance Project, which has been completed, was to make the bridge safe and keep it working for another 15 to 20 years. The project repaired a number of problems, including: 

  • Concrete that was cracked and crumbling
  • The electrical system and the parts that raise the bridge needed upgrades
  • The steel framework on the bridge was rusting

When were the repairs made?

Project planning was completed 2016. Construction began in spring 2017 and ended in 2020.  

What parts of the bridge were repaired?

Repairs focused on three major areas of the bridge – the road surface, the bridge structure and electrical and mechanical systems. 

Surface repairs included:

  • Spot repairs to pavement, sidewalks, overhangs and railings
  • Replacing expansion joints (which allow bridge sections to expand and contract with temperature change)
  • Sign painting

Structural repairs included: 

  • Repairing cracks in the piers
  • Repairing the concrete columns that hold up the bridge, including the beams and girders which make the columns strong
  • Painting steel trusses (the framework under the bridge that holds up the roadway)
  • Repairing the inside of the internal steel towers that are connected to the piers

Mechanical/electrical repairs included:

  • Replacing the drawbridge span locks and motor 
  • Upgrading the power supply and drawbridge controls

How much did the repairs cost?

The improvements are estimated to cost $18-22 million.

Who's involved?

Multnomah County owns the bridge. HDR Inc. designed the repairs. Hamilton Construction was the general contractor that made the repairs.

Will the repairs make the bridge safer in an earthquake? 

While we’re repairing the bridge, we’ll also look for ways to make it safer during earthquakes. This is a separate project called the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project