Maintenance crews finished counterweight repairs to the Interstate 5 Bridge early Friday, bringing the southbound span back to full strength for the first time in three months.
The job didn’t come without impact to Friday’s morning commute. As workers wrapped up the fourth consecutive overnight closure, they didn’t open the southbound side of the bridge until about 5:30 a.m., according to the Oregon Department of Transportation — a half-hour later than expected. That was enough to snarl the freeway as motorists made their way from Vancouver to Portland.
“That created a problem, and it created a traffic problem,” ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said.
Crews replaced two of the rollers that help guide the bridge’s nearly 700-ton concrete counterweights up and down during a lift. The rollers on the north tower of the southbound span were detached from their track — a problem first discovered in March. As a result, the southbound side of the bridge couldn’t move as fast, causing longer delays when it rose for a bridge lift.
ODOT worked with an architectural and engineering firm to replace the rollers and make sure the counterweight was positioned correctly. As of Friday morning, the problem was fixed, Hamilton said. The southbound span is once again able to move at full speed and full range, he said.
“We don’t anticipate any further closures for the immediate future,” he said.
An estimated cost of the repairs was not immediately available Friday, he said.
Much of Friday morning’s work involved test lifts to make sure the bridge could reach its full capabilities, partially contributing to the delay in reopening it. Follow-up work may close the bridge again in the fall, but that’s not expected to happen any sooner, Hamilton said.
The southbound side of the I-5 Bridge, opened in the 1950s, is actually the newer of the two spans. The original Interstate Bridge — now the northbound span — opened in 1917.