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Downtown Urgent Sewer Repairs Project

Sewer and Stormwater
Environmental Services is constructing urgent repairs to 3,600 feet of 140-year-old public sewer pipes that are in very poor condition in downtown Portland. At a high risk of collapsing, the pipes require repairs to protect the public, buildings, and streets from sewage releases and flooding.
Construction began in June 2020 and will continue through October 2021.
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Originally installed between 1867 and 1917, most of the pipes were built within two to three decades after Portland was founded in 1845. The collapse and failure of these pipes would have severe consequences to the Portland Downtown Neighborhood, the Central Business District, and the Downtown Core. Urgent repairs now will make them last another 65 years, increase their resiliency to earthquake damage, and help prevent sewage releases into downtown buildings and streets.

Project Area

The project boundary is SW Ankeny Street to SW Market Street between SW Naito Parkway and SW 12th Avenue.

Map of pipe work locations for Downtown Urgent Sewer Repairs Project

What's Happening Now

Crews continue work to complete urgent sewer repairs downtown. The construction schedule may fluctuate due to weather, conditions underground, subcontractor schedules, materials availability, and other factors. 

Public Sewer Extension—This week through September 24

Crews will continue work to construct a public sewer extension. This work will occur during daytime hours between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the following location:

  • SW 11th Avenue between SW Salmon Street and SW Main Street

Crews will install the new mainline sewer pipe using the Open Trench Excavation method. Open Trench Excavation is the traditional method of sewer construction and the most common method for installing a new sewer pipe. Residents and businesses will still be able to use sewer, water, and other services during construction.

After installing the new mainline pipe, crews will install a new maintenance access hole and a sewer service lateral to connect a property to the new mainline pipe. Crews will install the sewer service lateral using the Auger Bore method, which is similar to Jack and Bore but uses smaller equipment. Crews will excavate a small pit at each end of the lateral line, bore the lateral pipe through, and connect it. This method will avoid disrupting the many underground utilities at this location.

The public sewer extension will resolve a nonconforming sewer connection and provide a property an independent connection to the public sewer. This work is part of the City’s ongoing effort to extend the sewer system to properties without direct access to the public sewer and bring them into compliance with City plumbing codes.

We Want to Hear from You

Environmental Services will inform residents and businesses about project activities and respond to questions and concerns in a timely manner. The following resources will help you stay informed and report concerns:

  • Questions: Call 503-823-5315, stating that Downtown Urgent Repairs is your area of concern. Outreach staff will return your call by the next business day.
  • Nighttime Noise Complaint: Call 503-823-1338, stating that Downtown Urgent Repairs is your project of concern. The noise hotline is monitored by site inspectors.
  • Sewer Emergency: In the event of a sewer backup or basement flooding, call the Maintenance hotline immediately at 503-823-1700. It is staffed all hours and all days, 24/7.

Construction Methods

The public sewer pipes in this project have defects that require urgent repairs to avoid their collapse. The city's goal is to repair the majority of pipes using trenchless methods, such as pipe lining. Some areas that cannot be lined will require spot repairs, where crews will dig small trenches to replace short sections of pipe. Other areas will require sewer cleanout installations to enable the pipe lining repair work. This approach will avoid having to dig long trenches in downtown streets to replace whole pipes later.

Sewer Cleanout Installations

A sewer cleanout is a capped opening above the sewer service lateral that connects a building to the mainline public sewer. It enables crews to access and repair that connection. Cleanouts will be used to maintain sewer service during the pipe lining process, and to provide access for future maintenance.

Cleanouts are typically installed near the curb but may also be placed in the sidewalk or near the building. Sewer cleanout installation requires digging a hole where the cleanout will be located. This construction creates noise, vibration, and dust. Each cleanout installation takes up to two days to complete. 

Spot Repairs

Crews will dig small trenches using Open Trench Excavation so that crews can replace short sections of broken pipe that cannot be lined. Crews will dig a trench, remove the section of broken pipe, install a section of new pipe, backfill the trench, apply a temporary pavement patch, and then repave the patched area after the work passes inspections. 

Cured-in-Place Pipe Lining (CIPP)

Crews will use CIPP to repair most of the mainline sewer pipes and service lateral connections. The pipe lining process involves inserting a flexible liner inside the old pipe, inflating the liner, and exposing it to heat or ultraviolet light to dry and harden the liner inside the pipe.

You may smell an odor like plastic or glue during CIPP that will dissipate quickly once the process is complete. The odor is from chemicals in the liner resin. The amounts detected by an independent industrial hygienist are below health risk levels.

To keep the resin odors from entering your home or business through your private sewer, fill any floor drains and infrequently used sinks with a small amount of water. This water will collect in the bend in the drain and block odors from the sewer.

If a resin odor is already in your building or residence, cover basement floor drains and open windows to allow ventilation. If the odor continues, call City Maintenance at 503-823-1700.

Learn more about CIPP.

What to Expect

Crews will use Cured-in-Place-Pipe Lining (CIPP) to repair most of the sewer service laterals and mainline sewer pipes. CIPP involves inserting a flexible liner inside the old pipe, inflating the liner, and exposing it to heat or ultraviolet light to dry and harden the liner inside the pipe.

Service Lateral Pipe Lining

The lateral pipe lining work will occur during a combination of daytime and nighttime work hours. Crews will set up the work zone, install the pipe lining, reconnect properties to the repaired lateral pipes, remove the sewer bypass system, clear out equipment from the work zone, and remove traffic controls. It will take approximately one to three days on each block to complete the repairs.

Mainline Sewer Pipe Lining 

The mainline pipe lining work will occur during a combination of daytime and nighttime work hours. It will take approximately one day to set up the sewer bypass system, one night to line the sewer pipe, and one morning to remove the bypass system, clear out equipment from the work zone, and remove traffic controls.  

A vactor truck will be in the area to maintain sewer service during the lateral lining and the mainline pipe lining. Vactor trucks create noise and can operate for hours at a time.

Security patrol will be present to monitor the work site at night.

Pavement Restoration

Crews will grind down the temporary asphalt patches, remove any cracks and ruts, place a new layer of asphalt on top of the surface, and level it off. The patched trenches where crews had to dig in the street will have a fresh new asphalt surface.

Traffic Controls

The city's contractor is working with the Portland Bureau of Transportation on traffic control plans necessary to complete the urgent mainline sewer repairs as quickly as possible. You can expect some on-street parking removal, traffic delays in and around the work zones, restricted or closed travel lanes, and restricted pedestrian crossings. Sidewalks will remain open. Local access will be provided to parking garages and businesses.

To avoid circling around construction to find parking, please use SmartPark garages. The nearest SmartPark garages are illustrated on the project map.

Extreme Weather

When high temperatures, extreme heat, near freezing temperatures, or extreme cold are in the weather forecast, crews may adjust schedules to protect workers from the dangers of heat stress and cold stress. When working in extreme weather environments, all City workers, contractors, and subcontractors must follow Oregon’s OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) mandates and Environmental Services’ Heat Illness Safety and Health Plan and its Cold Stress Safety and Health Plan. You may see crews taking more frequent water and rest breaks, stopping work at noon, and taking other protective measures during extreme weather.

Project Background

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.
  • 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.

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