Interstate 5 drivers endured back-to-back bridge lifts Wednesday as crews checked out a faulty counterweight on the span connecting Vancouver and Portland.
After an inspection revealed that one of the weights on the Interstate 5 Bridge’s southbound side was partially loose from its track, workers moved quickly to assess the problem, said Oregon Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie. That required twice lifting the southbound span, backing up midday freeway traffic into Vancouver.
Bridge crews weren’t able to solve the issue right away. Additional lifts were planned for late Wednesday night into early Thursday while a temporary fix is put in place, Dinwiddie said.
“This was not an expected repair,” she said.
The I-5 Bridge uses huge concrete counterweights to raise the span during a bridge lift. On the southbound side, those weights measure about 700 tons each. They glide up and down the bridge towers guided in part by rollers along a fixed track.
Crews found that two of those rollers in the north tower had slipped off their track, according to ODOT. Workers planned to repair them overnight Wednesday, possibly causing “several” bridge lifts between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Thursday, Dinwiddie said. Equipment on the bridge will also close one lane during that time.
Replacement rollers — and a permanent fix — could arrive as soon as next week.
“We can’t just buy bridge parts off the shelf somewhere,” Dinwiddie said. “We have to build them.”
Wednesday’s lifts began at 11:27 a.m. and 1 p.m., Dinwiddie said. Each lasted between 20 and 30 minutes. Crews opted to complete the rest of the work overnight to reduce the impact on the freeway, she said. But motorists can still avoid delays by taking Interstate 205 across the Columbia River.
“We like doing bridge lifts for maintenance when traffic volumes are at their lowest,” Dinwiddie said.