Broadway Bridge Rall Wheel Replacement

After more than a century of use, the eight-foot diameter steel wheels that help open and close the Broadway Bridge are ready to be replaced.

Project Facts

  • Construction is planned to begin in January 2017 and be completed in early 2018.
  • There will be full bridge closures on several nights and weekends.
  • One traffic lane will remain open in each direction for most of this time.
  • Minimal impacts to bridge sidewalks
  • Streetcars and buses will be able to use the bridge most of the time.
  • At times, only one of two spans of the drawbridge will be able to open.
  • Some construction noise may occur at night.

The Broadway is a rare type of bridge- a Rall-wheel double-leaf drawbridge. It uses four large steel wheels to roll back and engage larger weights that lift its two center spans. It’s a complicated design, but it opens faster and uses less energy than other bridges of its era. It also allows ships of any height to pass.

These four Rall wheels have been in use since the bridge opened in 1913. After more than a century of hard work, the wheels and their tracks are worn out and need to be replaced.

Fixing The Bridge

Replacing the Rall wheels is a very complex project. The Rall wheels support the entire weight of the opening spans- 2250 tons each. This means the work can only happen when the spans are closed. In order to allow river traffic to pass, one span will be free to lift while the other is being repaired. Then the contractor will switch sides and work on the other lift span leaf. Replacing the wheels will take about three months for each side. After the Rall wheels, tracks and struts are replaced, the contractor will replace brakes and equalizers on the lift span. This last phase of work will be completed between Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 and will have minimal impact on traffic.

In order to work quickly and efficiently, Multnomah County hired a consultant team that includes both engineering and construction skills. Designers Hardesty & Hanover, LLC, will work with contractor Hamilton Construction to plan together and create the best approach to fixing the bridge. The estimated construction cost for the project is $12 million.

Traffic Impacts

30,000 vehicles cross the Broadway’s four lanes every day, as well as 2,000 bicycles, a streetcar line, a bus route, and many people on foot. The bridge is an important connection between the Pearl District, Rose Quarter and lower NE Broadway area.

Repair work is being planned to reduce impacts to traffic. At the same time, we must keep the drawbridge operating so large ocean-going vessels can pass.

One center traffic lane will remain open each way during the Rall wheel work (January 2017 to September 2017).  There will be minimal impacts to sidewalks. Streetcars and buses will be able to use the bridge. However, there will be brief times (on nights and weekends) where the bridge will be closed to all traffic. This will be when traffic control is set up and removed and when large pieces of equipment and parts are moved on the bridge.

Noise Impacts

Some night work may be needed, mostly to set up a new work area. We will take a number of steps to be respectful of our neighbors:

•    All equipment will comply with US Environmental Protection Agency noise standards. 
•    Reduce truck movements at night.
•    Use silent “smart alarms” instead of standard reverse signal beep alarms on vehicles at night.
•    Use portable noise meters onsite to measure noise levels.
•    Build containment structures to help muffle construction noise.
•    Maintain a 24-hour telephone response line for noise complaints.
•    Address complaints within 24 hours or before the next scheduled night work.

The project will seek a noise variance from the City of Portland to do work on some nights, to minimize traffic impacts on commuters.  The Noise Control Office(link is external) will accept public testimony on the variance request at a meeting on Wednesday, October 12 at 6 pm at City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Ave. The Noise Review Board(link is external) will vote on the variance at a meeting that has been scheduled on October 19 at 6 p.m. at the same location.

Contact Us

Please use this form to contact the project team with any questions or comments or to sign up for project updates.

-Multnomah County