Spring is finally here and we’ll be digging in once again to make major improvements to sections of the original MAX tracks in Downtown Portland.
Like the projects we completed last year at 1st Avenue and Rose Quarter, the Morrison-Yamhill MAX Improvements project will impact service on all lines. But once they’re completed, these track and switch improvements will help us keep trains rolling smoothly and reliably.
The work will take three weeks, from April 30 through May 20. That’s a bit longer than the previous projects that took just two weeks each. The construction will temporarily alter Portland Streetcar in addition to disrupting MAX.
The heart of the project happens on SW Morrison and Yamhill streets at 11th Avenue, which was the end of the original MAX line between Portland and Gresham. This area sees it all: hundreds of trains and streetcars a day, three lanes of auto traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Crews will replace four “turnouts” — two on Morrison Street and two on Yamhill Street. These are sections of track where rails spur off from the mainline to side tracks. Underneath the rails, crews will remove the old wooden ties that were standard at the time of original construction and replace them with concrete. New switches will go in with improved drainage to keep them clear of water and debris that can cause problems during heavy rain storms. On the Morrison side of 11th Avenue, the switches will get heaters to help keep snow and ice from building up, an especially good idea after last winter.
The original cable connecting the train signals to the track will also be replaced, and circuits that help monitor where trains are will be upgraded. These improvements will cut down on signal issues and keep trains moving.
Walking through these intersections today, you have to step carefully around broken and missing brick pavers and historic Portland Belgian block. We’ll replace those. The potholes caused by asphalt crumbling and pulling away from the rails will be repaired using a rubberized grout, which keeps the rail in place and prevents stray current as electricity from the overhead wire travels to the train and into the rail.
Down the street at 1st Avenue, crews will replace curved rail, which wears faster than straight rail. We’ll also be freshening up some signs at the closed platforms and working on our ticket machines.
The Morrison-Yamhill MAX Improvements project has been two years in the making. And since we know the three-week disruption to MAX service (and two-week disruption to Portland Streetcar) is going to be a big inconvenience, we’ve coordinated with other agencies to get all the disruptive work done at once. The Portland Bureau of Environmental Services will repair and upgrade sewers next to the tracks, Multnomah County will fix cracks under the Burnside Bridge and Portland Parks and Recreation will repair material under the Pioneer Square South MAX Station all at the same time our work is happening. We figured an intense three-week disruption is better than months of separate projects that block MAX.
We’re asking a lot from our riders during this project. We appreciate your patience and we can’t wait to debut smoother and more reliable MAX service next month.