NW Thurman Sewer Reconstruction Project

Sewer and Stormwater
Environmental Services has completed construction on a project to reconstruct the public sewer system in NW Thurman Street and the Willamette Heights Neighborhood. Sewer and stormwater improvements will increase capacity of the 100-year-old sewer, relieve sewer backups, and reduce street flooding.
This project is in the final stage of construction and is anticipated to be fully completed by November.
On this Page

Project Area

The map below illustrates where this project constructed sewer improvements. The primary construction method for each pipe segment is noted.

Map of pipe work locations for NW Thurman Sewer Reconstruction Project

What's Happening Now

This project is in the final stage of construction. 

The city's sewer construction contractor, Moore Excavation Inc. (MEI), and their subcontractors have completed sewer reconstruction at all locations in the project area. In addition, they have completed major pavement restoration where crews had to dig into the street to install sewer pipes, maintenance holes, and storm drain inlets. Pavement restoration was done according to the Portland Bureau of Transportation's pavement restoration standards. 

MEI is making their way through the project area to complete remaining small work items, including the following:

  • Abandonment of pre-existing sewer pipes on NW Thurman Street near NW 34th Avenue that are no longer of service. 
  • Repairs to concrete curbs, sidewalks, and driveway aprons where needed.
  • Sand sealing of new asphalt pavement joints and gouges.
  • Repairs to storm drain inlets.
  • Cleanup and restoration of public right-of-way areas behind the curb with topsoil and grass seed.  

Thank You

On behalf of the project team, Environmental Services expresses appreciation to our Willamette Heights neighbors for your patience, understanding, cooperation, and support throughout the NW Thurman Sewer Reconstruction Project and the NW Aspen Avenue Sewer Extension Project. We know that construction was inconvenient, disruptive, and highly impactful to the neighborhood.

We all learned a lot from this one—from launching a major construction project at the beginning of a pandemic to navigating safely around landslide areas, to excavating various soil types with buried trolley tracks and ties, to accommodating access needs on streets with high demand for on-street parking, to engineering a complex mix of construction methods and solutions to reconstruct the public sewer system, to maintaining communications with property owners and residents during a pandemic, wildfires, extreme heat, and construction fatigue. Thank you for bearing with us!

We Want to Hear from You

Environmental Services is working with our contractor to do all we can to minimize construction impacts on the neighborhood. Construction is noisy, dusty, and causes vibration. It will be disruptive.

Please let us know if you have a concern or question about a pipe repair near you. Be sure to include your name, property address, and project name (NW Thurman) in your voicemail and email so we can provide you more details about what to expect in front of your property. Also, please write “NW Thurman” in the subject line of your email.

If your basement sewer backs up or your property or street floods, please report it immediately to the City's Maintenance Operations hotline at 503-823-1700. It is staffed all hours and all days (24/7). 

For questions about landslide recovery work managed by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, please contact Geren Shankar at 503-823-4793 or email Geren.Shankar@portlandoregon.gov. Also, visit their webpage about the NW Thurman Street Landslide Restoration project. 

See information below for project details and background.

Construction Methods

The contractor used open trench excavationcured-in-place-pipe lining (CIPP), and jack and bore to construct sewer and stormwater improvements. See the map above for the construction method at each location. Most of the mainline public sewer pipes were replaced with the open trench excavation method. 

This project also included the following construction elements:

  • Abandon sewer pipes and maintenance holes under the Balch Gulch Bridge and divert sewer and stormwater flows away from the bridge to the existing system at the intersection with NW 30th Avenue. The project upsized the sewer line north on NW 31st Avenue and east on NW Vaughn Street to NW 30th to accommodate the flows from this diversion. This improvement will avoid compromising the integrity of retaining walls, a water line, the bridge abutment, and bridge pier supports, and improve future access to the system for maintenance.
  • Remove buried trolley track rails and ties to install new sewer pipes.
  • Extend the public sewer in NW Aspen Avenue just north of NW Savier Street to resolve nonconforming sewer connections and provide properties an independent connection to the public sewer. 
  • Extend the public sewer in NW Aspen Avenue just south of NW Belgrave Avenue to resolve nonconforming sewer connections and provide properties an independent connection to the public sewer.  
  • A third, more urgent, sewer extension in NW Aspen Avenue at two properties north of NW Franklin Court completed construction in June 2020 separately from the NW Thurman and NW Aspen projects. 

What to Expect

The contractor will develop detailed traffic control plans before construction begins at a location. You can expect the following activities and impacts during construction:

  • Noise, Vibration, and Dust: Construction creates noise, vibration, and dust and disrupts normal neighborhood activity.
  • Equipment Storage: Equipment and materials may be stored on streets overnight.
  • No Parking: Little or no on‐street parking will be allowed in and near work zones, especially during work hours. On days when crews will be working in front of your house or nearby, please plan ahead. If you park your vehicle on the street, plan to move it off the street by 7 a.m. and return it at 6 p.m.
  • Traffic Delays: Expect traffic delays in and near the work area.
  • Lane Restrictions: At least one lane with two-way traffic on NW Thurman west of 31st will be maintained, with flaggers during work hours to assist traffic and pedestrians.
  • Street Closure on NW Thurman: The work at NW Thurman and 31st may require a temporary, short-term street closure of NW Thurman. If so, a signed detour will be in place and work hours will be restricted.
  • Street Closure on NW Aspen: The work in NW Aspen just south of NW Belgrave will require a temporary, long-term street closure of NW Aspen for the excavation of a pipe insertion pit and the jack-and-bore operation to prepare for new sewer pipe installation. 
  • Cross-Street Closures: Work at intersections on NW Thurman may require temporary cross-street closures, with local access the next block up from the closure on that cross street.
  • Pedestrian Access: If temporary crosswalk and sidewalk closures are necessary, signage will indicate the alternate way for pedestrians to proceed.
  • Services Maintained: Sewer, water, and other utilities are expected to remain in service during construction.
  • Garbage Pickup: Access to garbage and recycling bins for haulers will always be maintained.

We are also aware that more residents will be home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are working with our contractor to ensure they provide a safe, healthy, and clean work zone throughout construction. Moore Excavation Inc. has a COVID-19 safety plan in place, and they are following CDC guidelines for social distancing. The job site has an appointed social distancing representative to ensure that people are following the rules, and our city inspectors will be on-site to enforce them.

The construction contract has specifications about work zone cleanliness, erosion and dust control, the installation of steel plates over open trenches, and other measures to reduce dirt, dust, safety hazards, and idling trucks.

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.

Pavement Restoration

Environmental Services has completed pavement restoration work on NW Thurman Street and on other neighborhood streets where sewer construction occurred for this project. As sewer construction proceeded, crews were required to temporary patch and pave all trenches until large paving equipment could be mobilized to perform final permanent paving. To provide a safe road surface through the winter weather season, crews applied a thicker than standard temporary asphalt patch over trenched areas—three inches rather than two inches. Final pavement restoration also included a thicker than standard asphalt surface. 

The temporary asphalt patches remained in place while inspectors conducted tests to ensure that the sewer construction work was done properly, the new pipes and maintenance holes were functioning properly with good connections, and that the work passed City inspections. In addition, crews needed to complete a substantial amount of work before they could do final pavement restoration on NW Thurman Street, or they risked having to dig it all back up as they moved from one section of the street to the next between NW 32nd Avenue and NW Gordon Street. 

As part of the final pavement restoration process, it was necessary to grind down the temporary asphalt patches that were applied over sewer trenches. Crews ground down the temporary asphalt patches to remove any cracks, ruts, jagged cuts, and imperfections. Then they brought in a large paving machine to perform the final paving. They placed a three-inch layer of asphalt paving on top of the surface to fill any holes and level it off. The standard is to place a two-inch layer of asphalt. So, the extra inch will provide extra thick pavement. 

In some sections of NW Thurman Street, it was necessary to rebuild sections of the street from the base up before final restoration of the street surface. In other sections, it was necessary to dig small holes to determine the precise location and depth of buried trolley tracks and ties before final restoration of the street surface. 

With final pavement restoration now completed, the broad trenches where crews had to dig in the street now have a fresh new asphalt surface, which is much smoother than the temporary asphalt patches. 

Pavement Restoration Requirements

In sewer and stormwater construction projects where crews dig into city streets, Environmental Services is required to follow specifications set by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), who owns the streets and manages the public rights-of-way. PBOT determines what pavement restoration a project must do and provides direction that meets the intent of the City’s Pavement Restoration Standard Drawings for Local Streets or Busy Streets. 

In addition, PBOT works with project managers and inspectors from Environmental Services to review our sewer and stormwater project designs, assess the pre-existing, pre-construction conditions of streets and pavement surfaces, and set requirements for street and pavement surface restoration. Potential contractors use this information to develop their proposals and bids to have the opportunity to do the work. 

Based on the condition of the street and the pavement, PBOT determines the extent of required pavement restoration that Environmental Services will be responsible for. If PBOT determines before we begin our sewer and stormwater construction project that any street is in such poor condition that it will need to be rebuilt or resurfaced curb-to-curb after sewer and stormwater construction, PBOT might then negotiate with Environmental Services what street and pavement restoration they will pay for with PBOT resources in addition to what Environmental Services will pay for with sewer and stormwater ratepayer dollars. 

The job of Environmental Services is to maintain the public sewer and stormwater systems, not to rebuild or improve streets. In general, as a rule, Environmental Services will rebuild the sections of street that crews have to dig up—the trench widths. 

Our projects are required to restore and repave the sections of the street that we disturb during construction. Usually that means restoring just the trenches on streets where crews had to sawcut, remove pavement, and dig up the street to install new sewer pipes and maintenance holes. Crews will backfill the trenches, compact them appropriately, and apply temporary asphalt patches. Crews will return to those locations with a large paving machine as soon as possible to complete final restoration. Crews will also restore any curbs, sidewalks, and driveway aprons they damage. 

When sewer or stormwater construction work occurs on fairly recent or "good condition" pavement, a condition designated by PBOT, the restoration requirements do not call for curb-to-curb pavement. Curb-to-curb paving can be unnecessary and a waste of sewer and stormwater ratepayer dollars if the street has decent pavement. Environmental Services and PBOT work together to ensure that the street and pavement restoration performed on streets in our projects is appropriate use of our resources and meets PBOT's established pavement restoration standards. 

Paving NW Thurman Street, NW 32nd Avenue, and NW Franklin Court 

Environmental Services is aware of the poor condition that some streets in the neighborhood were in prior to the sewer construction work with the NW Thurman Sewer Reconstruction Project. And the project team is aware that sewer construction further impacted the streets. Therefore, our project restored sections of some streets somewhat beyond the trench widths, according to how PBOT directed. Our project did not, however, repave streets from curb to curb, except on NW 32nd Avenue, NW Franklin Court, and parts of NW Thurman Street where PBOT determined more extensive paving was needed based on pre-construction conditions and construction impacts.

Vibration Monitoring

A geophysical consultant conducted a vibration monitoring test during the week of November 16, 2020.

Crews set up vibration monitoring equipment in NW Thurman Street near NW 31st Avenue and then conducted a vibration monitoring test. The test occurred in the public right-of-way only, not on private properties.

Sewer construction causes noise, vibration, and dust. This project includes not only sewer construction but also buried trolley track removal so that the new sewer pipes can be installed in NW Thurman Street. Residents will hear the pavement demolition, track removal, and sewer installation activities, and will feel the vibrations associated with these activities. However, none of these activities is expected to produce significant ground vibrations. The vibration monitoring test confirmed this.

To help verify that the vibration levels from these activities are safe, a geophysical consultant conducted a vibration test during removal of a test section of buried trolley track in NW Thurman Street at NW 31st Avenue. Removal of the buried tracks required sawcutting the pavement, followed by removing the pavement to expose the tracks. Crews used an excavator to remove the pavement and tracks. They also needed to break concrete and rock.

The consultant placed sensors in the planting strip (public right-of-way) at various distances from the intersection of NW Thurman and 31st. They measured the vibrations associated with various demolition and construction activities. They also measured vibrations during periods when there was no demolition or construction activity so that background vibrations could be evaluated.

The geophysical consultant concluded that the data shows no damage is expected to structures that are more than 12 feet away from excavation activities. No homes are within this footprint. Residents can expect to feel the vibrations, especially if your home is closer to the work. 

How to prepare for construction

If you have a concern about any items or features inside your house or other structures that you think might be vulnerable to construction vibration, we recommend that you secure them before construction begins at your property. Secure hanging items like photos, china dishes, or ceramics, or remove them temporarily before construction begins. Items on shelves may rattle and move, so take precautions you think are necessary. We also recommend that you take photos and/or videos to document pre-existing conditions inside your house, including existing cracks on ceilings, walls, and floors. Be sure photos and videos are date-and-time-stamped for verification. 

If you believe construction caused damage to your house or other structures and features on your property, you have a right to file a claim against the City of Portland. Guidance is available online here.

Project Background

The purpose of this project is to relieve basement sewer backup risk and reduce street flooding in the project area. To that end, this project will upsize or repair portions of the public sewer main line to increase its capacity to handle combined sewer and stormwater. Engineers have also designed ways to reduce rocky debris in stormwater that drains from Forest Park into the combined sewer in NW Thurman Street. This, too, will help increase the capacity of sewer pipes and reduce basement sewer backup risk.

The project is designed to accomplish the following sewer and stormwater improvements:

  • Relieve basement sewer backups at 31 properties.
  • Reduce the risk of street flooding at 16 locations based on the 25-year Design Storm.
  • Replace or repair 4,800 feet of public sewer mainline pipe, ranging in size from 8 inches to 14 inches in diameter.
  • Construct or replace 95 sewer service laterals that connect private sewer lines to the public sewer in the street; this will involve 1,500 feet of lateral sewer pipe.
  • Construct or replace 32 maintenance holes, of which 1 (one) is a sedimentation hole.
  • Replace 14 storm drain inlets and construct 280 feet of inlet lead pipe.

Pipe Replacement Added on NW Franklin Court

The location of NW Franklin Court between NW 34th Avenue and NW Aspen Avenue was added to the project in April of 2021. After a garbage truck sank its wheels into the pavement earlier in the year, City Maintenance crews discovered evidence of a cavity, or void, underground along the alignment of the existing sewer pipe. They then performed a spot repair on a broken section of pipe. However, they discovered that the cavity still existed, and they did not know why. There was not enough information to conclude that the cavity related to the sewer pipe.

Therefore, to eliminate more sink holes along the alignment, our contractor excavated this section of sewer pipe in NW Franklin Court between NW 34th Avenue and NW Aspen Avenue and replaced it with a new pipe. After installing the new pipe, they ensured there was good backfill and soil compaction before restoring the pavement.

What We've Heard from You

Construction Disturbance of the Planting Strip

The area between the curb and the sidewalk is referred to as the planting strip, also known as the parking strip. It is public right-of-way. The adjacent property owner is responsible for maintaining the portion of public right-of-way between their private property and the curb. Maintenance responsibilities include caring for permitted trees, mowing grass, and maintaining a safe sidewalk.

However, the City retains the authority to use the planting strip on behalf of the public. Environmental Services and our contractors have a right to store materials and equipment in and work in the planting strip to inspect, repair, replace, or construct public utilities and infrastructure. Anything belonging to private property owners and tenants that is located in the public right-of-way may be disturbed by construction.

In this sewer reconstruction project, crews are constructing sewer service lateral pipes that will connect adjacent properties to the newly installed mainline sewer pipes. This work requires a supply of gravel to be placed on the street at the curb for backfilling the lateral trenches. Some of this gravel may spill over into the planting strip.

Crews will do their best not to disturb or harm the plants in the planting strip during construction. The contractor does plan to clean up the gravel that spills over the curb into the planting strip.

Residents who are concerned about construction disturbing or damaging anything in the planting strip are advised to track the schedule and plan ahead. Please remove or protect any items of concern before crews get there.

Steel Plate Installations

Residents near the intersection of NW Thurman Street and NW 32nd Avenue have reported concerns about the banging and rattling of steel plates installed over excavated areas when vehicles drive over them. The noise and vibration are especially disruptive when TriMet buses and large equipment vehicles drive over the plates. The city’s contractor continues to monitor the plates to ensure they are anchored properly to help prevent excessive vibration. Their equipment drivers will also slow down when driving over the plates.  

In addition, TriMet has agreed to maintain a slow zone of 15 mph for their buses on NW Thurman Street between NW 32nd Avenue and NW Gordon Street. In addition, they will issue a slow order of 5 mph when driving buses over plates in the project area. A supervisor will monitor for compliance with periodic speed radar checks. Environmental Services appreciates this mitigation measure from our community partners at TriMet.

A Corner of Portland's History

A resident alerted community outreach staff in Environmental Services of a potential mistake in the street name stamp at the northeast corner of NW Aspen Avenue and NW Savier Street. After installing a new ADA-compliant curb ramp, the subcontractor stamped the name “Aspen St.” into the concrete curb. Details matter, of course, and it’s important to provide accurate public information.

In this situation, the subcontractor stamped the correct street name. Stamping “Aspen St.” instead of “NW Aspen Ave.” was intentional. In the 1930s, the street was actually named Aspen Street, not NW Aspen Avenue. Just like horse rings located on curbs throughout the city, street name stamps are considered historic markers and must be preserved as part of Portland’s history.

City Code requires that sidewalk corners maintain their historic names and dates. If curb ramps must be repaired or replaced, the old name and date must be re-stamped into the concrete in as close to their original position as possible. This means that the original or even misspelled street names must be preserved.

The public record that verifies the naming history of NW Aspen Ave is available online (February 28, 1933—Ordinance 61325: Providing for renumbering of buildings and renaming of streets). For Aspen, see page 146, middle of the page.

Historic street name markers in other parts of the city include the following:

  • NE 35th Ave and NE Tillamook Street—a corner marker is spelled “Tillmok.”
  • N Overlook Blvd and N Overlook Terrace—a corner marker says “Wemme Avenue” (the former name of Overlook Terrace).
  • N Dekum St and N Fenwick Ave—a corner marker says “Harris St.”
  • NE Fremont St (intersection unknown)—a corner marker is spelled “Freemont St.”
  • SE Lincoln St (intersection unknown)—a corner marker says “E Linken St.”

The City appreciates residents being alert to these situations and reporting them. Whether a repair or adjustment is needed, or whether it’s an opportunity to learn a corner of Portland’s history, public input is valuable and always welcome.

Historic Water Fountain

The historic water fountain on NW Thurman Street at NW 31st Avenue has had a rough year or so, with multiple incidents of motorists driving their vehicles into the fountain and either knocking it off its foundation or bumping it slightly out of alignment with its foundation. The fountain is owned and maintained by the Portland Water Bureau.

After each incident, neighborhood residents have alerted community outreach staff in Environmental Services, who have reported the issue to maintenance staff in the Water Bureau. The Water Bureau has responded to inspect the fountain and make necessary repairs to ensure it continues to operate and provide a refreshing drink to pedestrians, bicyclists, dogs, and others out enjoying the neighborhood. 

The City appreciates residents being alert to these incidents and reporting them. For future reference, residents may report concerns about the fountain directly to the Water Bureau at 503-823-4874. The number is staffed all hours and all days (24/7).

On-Street Parking Concerns

The city’s contractor for this project has posted NO PARKING signs in and around areas where crews are working and staging equipment and materials. The signs apply to all of the spaces at the curb and in front of your driveway. Please do not move or alter in any way the signs and barricades. While we understand that on-street parking is limited in the neighborhood and temporary removal of spaces is inconvenient, the spaces are necessary for crews to do their work. Moving these approved signs can create safety hazards, and having to replace them delays sewer construction.

Some spaces may be signed NO PARKING during daytime construction and open up at night. You may park your vehicle in these spaces overnight during non-construction hours as long as you move your vehicle by 7 a.m. and return it at 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Failure to move your car by 7 a.m. may result in your vehicle being towed to a nearby on-street parking space, not a tow yard. 

On days when crews will be working in front of your house, nearby, or where you park your vehicle on the street, please plan ahead. Plan to move your vehicle off the street by 7 a.m. and return it at 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Keeping your vehicles parked on the street puts them at risk of being towed, delays the work, and extends the inconvenience. 

Thank you for your cooperation.

Garbage and Recycling Service

Garbage haulers are required to provide service even when construction or other activities in the public right-of-way may make their route more challenging. They should still pick up your garbage, recyclables, and yard debris every week as scheduled. Our contractor is willing to assist the haulers to get them through and around the work zone, and to ensure that containers are serviced and returned, but it is the responsibility of garbage and recycling haulers to stop and provide service. They should not just be driving on.

We recommend that you call your garbage hauler the day before scheduled service to notify them of your concerns and to ensure that service will still be provided during construction.

Find your garbage company

Private Contractor Conflicts

Private contractors have placed dumpsters, equipment, and vehicles in the street public right-of-way, which have hindered delivery trucks, garbage haulers, leaf pickup crews, and other service providers from getting onto streets to conduct necessary business. The city's sewer construction contractor will continue to assist everyone as much as possible.

Please plan your private contractor work around sewer construction to avoid conflicts and to prevent further hardship on you and your neighbors. There just is not enough room on the street for additional contractors. If you have questions about our construction schedule, please call or email.

If private contractors do not have the necessary permits to be in the public right-of-way, and if they park in spaces signed NO PARKING for our public sewer work, they will be subject to permit enforcement fines and vehicle tow fees.

We appreciate your cooperation.

Other Work in the Area

Public utility companies, private contractors, and the City's Maintenance Department may be conducting other work nearby, where they, too, need to post NO PARKING signs for their work.

Lower Macleay Trail Closed through March

The temporary trail closure has been extended through March. The Lower Macleay Trail in Portland’s Forest Park is temporarily closed from the trailhead in Lower Macleay Park at NW Upshur Street and 30th Avenue up to the intersection with the Wildwood Trail, near the Stone House. The closure will last through March.

For more information about the closure, including a map of alternate routes around the trail closure, visit the project webpage.

In addition, other capital improvement projects are occurring around your neighborhood. To learn more about these projects and to sign up for project updates about them, click on the following links:

Sign Up for Updates

Sign up for weekly email or text message updates for the NW Thurman Sewer Reconstruction Project through our free GovDelivery subscription service. These updates are the best way to stay informed about what’s happening and what to expect. You can also sign up for bulletins on other projects and topics. 

This project will help protect the health of the Willamette River Watershed.