We’ve made a big fuss about how the upcoming First Avenue improvements could make for a difficult commute over the next couple weeks, and you’re probably wondering what on earth could possibly create such chaos.
When we say improving, we’re talking about demolishing, replacing, flushing, installing, repairing and upgrading — below, you’ll find insight into what exactly we’ll be doing over the next couple weeks.
Early in the morning on Sunday, May 8, crews will begin saw-cutting around the portions of track that are being removed on First Avenue. Work has already started at Elmonica, our rail maintenance facility in Beaverton, to prepare the rails that will replace these sections.
Once the cutting is done, we’ll begin demolition of the trackway under the Morrison Bridge. This involves removal of rails, switch machines, wooden ties and salvageable cobblestone from around the switches. (Why that last one? The City of Portland has required us to replace the cobblestone when we’re done.) A few days in, the same demo work happens at NW 1st & Couch. Once the prep work is done at both locations, we’ll install new materials like track, switch machines, conduit, rebar and a new isolation membrane that guards against stray currents.
Once everything is in place, we’ll align the rails to assure they are the right distance apart and check their vertical and horizontal placement. Then the concrete will be poured, first under the Morrison Bridge and later at Couch.
During the second week, we’ll begin the third major project near Skidmore Fountain. The curved section of rail here wears quicker than straight track and will be replaced. This part of the project should take about five days.
Final cleanup of the trackway should be complete by Saturday, May 21, but surfacing on First Avenue — including putting those cobblestones back in — could continue through May 27.
While all this track work is going on, some of our other crews will have a good opportunity to make some other improvements along First Avenue — a sort of silver lining to an otherwise very disruptive project. Maintenance crews will be able to flush and improved drainage under the Morrison Bridge (we don’t need to tell you why this is important), track drains will be cleaned, hardware on the overhead wire will be replaced and the feeder breaker at the Morrison Bridge substation will be retrofitted.
We’ll also be repairing and improving the surface alongside the rails that will benefit all street users. (Cyclists who make the bumpy crossing at Couch will be especially happy.) These projects may be supplementary to the track work but they’re critical to the bigger picture along First Avenue: We’re going all-in on these improvements, because that’s the smartest way to give our riders more reliable service into the future.