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NW Thurman Sewer Reconstruction Project

Sewer and Stormwater
Active
Environmental Services continues 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.
Construction will continue through early 2022.
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Project Area

The map below illustrates where this project will construct 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

The city’s contractor has multiple crews working in the project area to complete as many tasks as possible before rainy weather slows construction. Over the next few weeks, crews are scheduled to work at the following locations: 

NW Thurman Street between 3436 and 3449 NW Thurman Street—This week:

  • Remove buried trolley tracks and ties.
  • Begin to install long run of sewer pipe between 3436 and 3449 NW Thurman.

NW Thurman Street between 3436 and 3449 NW Thurman Street—Week of October 25:

  • Continue to install long run of sewer pipe between 3436 and 3449 NW Thurman.
  • Install maintenance access hole in front of 3449 NW Thurman.
  • Install storm drain/catch basin inlet leads.
  • Install sewer service laterals that connect adjacent properties to the new public sewer mainline. Continue lateral installations the following week if necessary.

NW Thurman Street between NW 32nd Avenue and 3424 NW Thurman Street—Week of October 25:

  • Install storm drain/catch basin inlet leads.

NW Thurman Street between 3449 and 3497 NW Thurman Street (up to NW Gordon Street)—Week of October 25 and week of November 1:

  • Remove buried trolley tracks and ties in preparation for sewer pipe installation in NW Thurman Street the rest of the way up to NW Gordon Street

NW Thurman Street at NW 32nd Avenue—Week of November 1:

  • Install new catch basin inlet at southwest corner and connect it to maintenance access hole in the intersection.
  • Install ADA-compliant, accessible curb ramps at three corners. Pedestrian access will be maintained. The schedule is tentative, dependent upon concrete subcontractor availability and weather.

NW Franklin Court and NW 32nd Avenue—Week of November 1:

  • Re-work ADA-compliant, accessible curb ramp at one corner. Pedestrian access will be maintained. The schedule is tentative, dependent upon concrete subcontractor availability and weather.

NW 32nd Avenue at NW Franklin Court—Friday, November 5:

  • Re-grade driveway apron at 1807 NW 32nd Avenue. Expect up to seven days of no driveway access while concrete hardens and dries. The schedule is tentative, dependent upon concrete subcontractor availability and weather. The re-grade work is being done at the direction of the Bureau of Transportation.

NW Savier Street at NW Aspen Avenue—Friday, November 5:

  • Re-grade driveway apron at 3477 NW Savier Street. Expect up to seven days of no driveway access while concrete hardens and dries. The schedule is tentative, dependent upon concrete subcontractor availability and weather. The re-grade work is being done at the direction of the Bureau of Transportation.

The look-ahead schedule is approximate, and the dates of particular activities may change due to weather, conditions underground, subcontractor schedules, materials and labor availability, and other factors.

At other locations, you may see crews conducting pre-construction activities a few weeks or days before sewer construction begins there. Activities may include inspecting pipes and manholes, marking underground utilities with paint on the street or flags in the ground, trimming trees and installing tree protection fencing, setting up traffic controls, installing vibration and settlement monitoring equipment, setting up erosion controls, staging equipment and materials, and other activities. 

We Want to Hear from You

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.

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.

Vehicles Stored on the Street

If you know that you will be away from home for an extended period, such as a week or two, please plan ahead and arrange to store your vehicles off the street if possible. Please do not store your vehicles on NW Thurman Street if you are going to be away from home for an extended period. To avoid conflicts with construction, check in about the tentative schedule for construction near your property. We want to make sure that you keep your vehicles safe and that our crews can do their work. Thank you.

Construction Methods

The contractor will use 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 will be replaced with the open trench excavation method. 

This project will also include the following construction elements:

  • Abandon sewer pipes and manholes 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 will upsize 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 may 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.

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 manholes, of which 1 (one) is a sedimentation manhole.
  • 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.

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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 at https://efiles.portlandoregon.gov/Record/2685610/ (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.

Pavement Restoration

Environmental Services has a lot of sewer reconstruction work to do yet before final pavement restoration will be done on NW Thurman Street and several other streets in the project area. Given the winter weather season, crews have applied a thicker temporary asphalt patch over trenched areas than is standard—three inches rather than two inches.

The patches will remain in place while inspectors conduct tests to ensure that the work was done properly, the new pipes and manholes are functioning properly with good connections, and that the work passes inspections. In addition, crews need to complete a substantial amount of work before they can do final pavement restoration on NW Thurman, or they risk having to dig it all back up as they move from one section of the street to the next.

In sewer 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 street and manages the public right-of-way. PBOT dictates what restoration a project must do. The job of the Bureau of Environmental Services is to maintain the public sewer, not to use sewer and stormwater ratepayer dollars to rebuild streets. But our projects are required to restore and repave the sections of the street that they disturb during construction. Usually that means restoring just the trenches, or what are called "trench widths" on the street where crews had to sawcut and remove pavement to install new sewer pipes and manholes. Crews also restore any curbs and sidewalks they damage.

Environmental Services is aware of the poor condition that some streets in the neighborhood were in prior to this project's sewer construction work. And the project team is aware that sewer construction further impacted the streets. Therefore, our project will be restoring sections of some streets somewhat beyond the trench widths, according to how PBOT directs. Our project will not, however, be repaving streets from curb to curb. Crews will grind down the temporary asphalt patches they applied over sewer trenches to remove any cracks, ruts, and imperfections. Then they will place a three-inch layer of asphalt paving on top of the surface to fill any holes and level it off. Crews usually place a two-inch layer of asphalt. So, the extra inch will provide extra thick pavement. When paving crews are finished, the broad trenches where crews had to dig in the street will have a fresh new asphalt surface.

If Transportation determines that any street needs to be rebuilt or resurfaced curb to curb based on the condition of the base of the street and the pavement even before we began our sewer construction project, they will have to plan how to do that with their resources. Our project has already rebuilt the sections of street that crews dug up. Crews backfilled the trenches, compacted them appropriately, and applied a temporary asphalt patch. Crews will return to those locations as soon as possible to complete final restoration.

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 December 2021

The Lower Macleay Trail in Portland’s Forest Park will be temporarily closed beginning on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. The trail will be 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 the end of this year.

For more information about the closure, including a map of alternate routes around the trail closure, please visit the project webpage at: www.portland.gov/bes/construction/balchcreek.

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: