Public sewer pipes in these neighborhoods were originally installed in the mid-1800s after Portland was founded in 1845. Having provided 100 to 150 years of service, the pipes are showing signs of cracks, breaks, holes, offset connections, and root and grease obstructions. If these pipes were to collapse, causing basement flooding and sewage releases to buildings and streets, the consequences would be catastrophic for downtown neighborhoods, whose businesses are so important to our local and regional economy.
The program also addresses nonconforming sewer connections and, where possible, provides properties an individual and direct connection to the public sewer system.
Environmental Services currently has several projects in various phases of planning, design, and construction to repair deteriorating 100 to 150-year-old public sewer pipes. The goals of these projects are to assess the condition of the public sewer system, identify and evaluate defects, prioritize the repairs and upgrades needed, identify the appropriate repair methods, and construct the repairs and upgrades.
The sewer system repairs and upgrades will be designed and constructed by Environmental Services and its contractors and will be supervised by its engineers, inspectors, and safety officers. Community outreach professionals will work directly with the community throughout the course of the projects.
The following Downtown-Old Town sewer projects have repaired or replaced 17,790 linear feet (or 3.4 miles) of public sewer pipes since May of 2017:
- Downtown Urgent Sewer Repairs Project—3,750 feet completed February 2022
- SW Washington Street: Park Avenue to 10th Sewer Project—435 feet completed (one lateral pipe repair remains)
- SW Caruthers-Mill Sewer Project—6,900 feet completed May 2020
- SW Yamhill-Morrison Sewer Project Phase Three—1,275 feet completed November 2019
- SW Yamhill-Morrison Sewer Project Phase One and Two—4,890 feet completed November 2018
- SW Alder-Oak-Taylor Sewer Project—540 feet completed August 2018
In addition, Environmental Services has completed several small emergency sewer repairs and provides ongoing sewer maintenance activities and repairs throughout the Downtown-Old Town area.
Current and Future Projects
The following Downtown-Old Town sewer projects are in various stages of planning, development, design, and construction:
- SW Main-Taylor Sewer Project—10,675 feet in construction now and to be completed in 2023.
- SW Market-Madison Sewer Project—11,720 feet in design now and to be constructed in 2023–2024.
- SW Alder-Harvey Milk Project—9,700 feet in design now and to be constructed in 2024–2025.
- NW Couch-Kearney Project—in planning now and to be constructed in 2026–2027.
Downtown Open for Business
The Central Business District is the site of multiple projects to repair and replace aging sewers, rail lines, bridge structures, streets, and other infrastructure. Projects with long-term benefits will cause short-term disruptions to residents, businesses, and visitors. Environmental Services coordinates with multiple agencies to schedule and complete construction, minimize disruptions, and help people get to where they are going. For information about other projects that will affect travel in and around the Central Business District, visit www.MovePDX.net.
To avoid circling around construction to find parking, please use SmartPark garages.
Environmental Services is committed to ensuring the community is informed and engaged prior to and during the work associated with each of its Downtown-Old Town sewer repair projects. Community outreach staff will use a variety of communication tools to provide timely notifications about project design and construction activities and potential impacts.
Outreach methods will include the following:
- Direct mail.
- Hand-delivered flyers to downtown properties.
- On-site, in-person property visits and conversations.
- Regular email bulletins through GovDelivery.
- Social media posts through Nextdoor and other media.
- Project webpage updates.
- Phone message line.
- Sidewalk reader boards.
- Presentations to downtown business and neighborhood associations.
Construction in downtown Portland requires coordination with multiple partners, including but not limited to the following:
- Private Property Owners and Property Managers: We coordinate access to downtown buildings to investigate sewer and stormwater connections, determine basement layouts and utility vault locations, and install private plumbing modifications as needed to complete public sewer repairs.
- TriMet: We ensure that our construction activities along MAX light rail tracks and bus routes do not conflict with public transit system improvements during the project.
- Portland Bureau of Transportation: We apply for and comply with street use permits, on-street parking permits, approved traffic control plans, and construction contract specifications that reduce public inconvenience.
- Contractors, Subcontractors, and Suppliers: We coordinate our work with contractors, subcontractors, and material and equipment suppliers, many of whom are serving multiple priority infrastructure projects for the City of Portland.
- Downtown Businesses: Our goal is to reduce construction impacts to downtown businesses and their customers as much as possible. To avoid circling around construction to find parking, please use SmartPark garages. The nearest SmartPark garages are illustrated on the project map.
- Downtown Residents: Our goal is to reduce construction impacts to downtown residents, hotel guests, and the houseless community.
- Social Service Organizations: Our goal is to reduce construction stress on people experiencing homelessness.
- Event Managers: Our goal is not to interfere with major downtown events.
- Safety Officers: Our top priority is public health and safety—for our work crews and for the public—so we need to plan and schedule our work in a way that reflects that priority.