More lifts, closures planned for I-5 Bridge

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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Expect at least three nights of lifts and closures on the southbound Interstate 5 Bridge next week, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The span will periodically close as crews wrestle with a persistent problem: faulty rollers that guide the bridge’s huge counterweights up and down during a lift. Earlier this year, crews noticed rollers that had come off their track on the southbound span’s north tower. They’ve been working toward fixing the issue ever since.

The work will cause frequent lifts — but not a steady closure — starting at 11 p.m. both Monday and Tuesday nights, continuing until 5 a.m. the following mornings. On Wednesday night, a full closure will shut down the southbound span completely between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Additional closures may be needed Thursday night, said ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton.

Next week’s work will involve getting things properly set on the bridge, Hamilton said, before the worn rollers are eventually replaced with new ones, he said. But crews have a small window to work on any given night — getting equipment and people in place takes significant time on its own, Hamilton said. So does getting things clear for the next morning’s commute.

“The amount of real hours of work is limited in what you can do,” Hamilton said.

ODOT has used temporary fixes kept the bridge functioning despite the problem, but not without some impact. The southbound span can’t move up and down as fast with the faulty rollers, Hamilton said. As a result, it’s been slower to open to traffic after recent bridge lifts.

During any of next week’s closures, motorists can use Interstate 205 to get from Vancouver to Portland. Northbound traffic won’t be affected by the work.