June 15, 2021

Multnomah County has announced a series of cost saving studies in an effort to reduce the estimated cost of the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project, which is currently in the environmental review or planning phase.  The studies were described at a meeting of the project’s Community Task Force on June 14.

The project’s purpose is to create the first resilient lifeline crossing over the Willamette River in the central city that can be used after a major earthquake. The Preferred Alternative that has been recommended by the task force, the project’s Policy Group, and the Board of County Commissioners is the Long Span Replacement Bridge with a movable span for ships to pass.

The Long Span has the lowest cost of the four alternatives studied in the environmental review phase.  The estimated price range for the alternative at this early conceptual stage is more than $800 million.  Multnomah County has up to $300 million for the project from its local vehicle registration fee revenues.  County leaders asked the project team to analyze ways to reduce the cost so that the project is more likely to be fully funded and built.

The following cost studies will be conducted, with results shared with the public in early fall:

Multnomah County is studying a girder style approach at the west end of a new Burnside Bridge.

  • Narrower Bridge Width: Reducing the overall width of the bridge by eliminating a vehicular lane and providing bicycle/pedestrian facilities of at least 14-feet on each side, with a crash worthy barrier between traffic lanes and the bicycle/pedestrian facilities.  The new bridge would be approximately the same width as the current bridge. Estimated cost savings are approximately $140-$165 million.
  • Girder at West End: A west approach with a girder design that would not have a structure above the deck. This would place two rows of support columns in Waterfront Park, compared to the current bridge’s four rows and the one row that some other span types would allow. The girder was endorsed by the Portland Historic Landmarks and Design Commissions because its low height would not conflict with the lower building heights in nearby historic districts.  It also would offer more open space above and below the bridge deck. Estimated cost savings are $5-$10 million.
  • Adding Support Columns at East End: Adding a row of support columns on the east approach in or adjacent to the Burnside Skatepark if a Tied Arch design is used. (The extra columns would not be needed if a Cable Supported design is used.)  The project will explore ways to add the columns with minimal impact to the Skatepark below the bridge. Cost savings are estimated at $15-$20 million.
  • Connections to MAX and Esplanade: Funding the least cost option for connections from the bridge to the Skidmore MAX station and Eastbank Esplanade. This analysis will ensure ADA access is provided to these facilities below the bridge. The County is seeking opportunities to partner with other agencies to fund facilities and amenities beyond the lowest cost option. Cost savings to be determined.
  • Aesthetics Budget: Limiting the budget for aesthetic enhancements by focusing on the main structural form of the new bridge to define its look and feel. Cost savings to be determined.

The cost saving studies will extend the environmental review phase into summer 2022 but are expected to significantly reduce the current project cost estimate. A public comment period will be scheduled in February 2022. Design is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2022, with construction starting as early as 2025.  The revised schedule provides Multnomah County with additional time to secure funds needed to construct the new bridge.

Multnomah County maintains the Burnside Bridge and leads the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project. For information or to sign up for email notifications, visit www.burnsidebridge.org.