Storm damage recovery

SW Market-Madison Sewer Project

Sewer and Stormwater
Environmental Services is designing a project to repair 11,720 feet (more than two miles) of public sewer pipes in downtown Portland. Having provided up to 140 years of service, the pipes require repairs to reduce the risks of basement flooding and sewage releases to downtown buildings and streets.
Project design continues. Construction is anticipated to begin in March of 2024 and take a year and a half to complete.

The SW Market-Madison Sewer Project is the next in a series of projects to repair and replace aging public sewer pipes in downtown Portland that are in poor condition. The existing pipes were built between 1880 and 1992. They are showing signs of cracks, breaks, holes, offset connections, grease obstructions, and tree root intrusions. Timely repairs now will make them last another 80 years, increase their resiliency to earthquake damage, and provide safe and reliable sewer service to downtown Portland. 

Project Area

The project boundary is from SW Madison to SW Market streets between SW Naito Parkway and SW 13th Avenue. 

This map is being updated to show changes in pipe work locations and construction methods. Check back in December for an updated map.

SW Market-Madison project area is from SW Madison to SW Market streets between SW Naito Parkway and SW 13th Avenue.

General Schedule

Project design continues. Construction is anticipated to begin in March of 2024 and take a year and a half to complete. 

What's Happening Now

Over the next several months, crews will be conducting a variety of activities, including pipe and maintenance hole inspections, root removal, pipe cleaning, survey work, utility locates, and soil and pavement sampling throughout the project area. These activities may temporarily disrupt and delay traffic and will occur over time, not all at once. These activities will help confirm what pipes to repair or replace, what construction methods to use for each pipe, and how to avoid conflicts with other underground utilities during construction, including water, gas, and telecommunications lines.  

Utility Locates

To plan for sewer and stormwater improvements, it is important to know what utilities are underground. To avoid damaging those utilities during construction, it is necessary to locate and mark where they are. Crews paint markings on streets and sidewalks in different colors. They may also place small flags in the ground, or wooden stakes with ribbons, to indicate the presence of underground utilities.

Each color has meaning and indicates what utility is present:

  • White—proposed excavation.
  • Pink—temporary survey markings.
  • Red—electric power lines, cables, conduit, and lighting cables.
  • Yellow—gas, oil, steam, petroleum, or gaseous materials.
  • Orange—communication, alarm, or signal lines, cables, or conduit.
  • Blue—potable (drinking) water.
  • Purple—reclaimed water, irrigation, and slurry lines.
  • Green—sewer and drain lines.

When a public utility is in close proximity to a sewer pipe, stormwater pipe, or other critical structure, it may be necessary to dig a hole in the street or ground to locate the utility precisely. This activity is called "potholing." When potholing is complete, crews fill the holes and apply an asphalt patch.

Proposed Night Work—Thank you for your comments

To reduce public impacts and complete the work as quickly as possible, Environmental Services is proposing to work both days and nights. Daytime work hours will be between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Saturdays as needed. Nighttime hours will be between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. 

Work at most locations is expected to take less than a week. The noisier work—to dig small trenches for spot repairs, to install cleanouts, and to dig pits for horizontal directional drilling and pipe bursting—will be done during the day. It might be necessary to do Cured-in-Place-Pipe (CIPP) Lining work at night when levels of sewage and stormwater flows in the pipes are lower and less likely to compromise the lining. If so, these locations will include up to three nights to complete the CIPP lining.

Equipment to be used overnight will include vactor trucks (sewer cleaning trucks), light tower trucks, compressors, generators, pumps, and ventilation fans. 

Portland Noise Code allows construction from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Work after 6 p.m., before 7 a.m., and all hours on Sundays requires a noise variance from the Portland Noise Office. This project will apply for a noise variance to enable the contractor to work both days and nights. 

The Portland Noise Office is in the process of reviewing the noise variance application. You can email them at or call 503-823-7350. You may also call our downtown sewer repairs message line at 503-823-5315, stating that SW Market-Madison is your project of concern.  

What to Expect

Environmental Services wants you to know what to expect during design and during construction so you can plan ahead and be prepared. Sewer construction is disruptive to those who live and work in a project area. The city's contractors take care to keep noise, dust, vibration, odor, traffic delays, and other potential construction nuisances to a minimum. They also set up safe work zones to protect crews and the public from the hazards associated with construction. Learn more about What to Expect During Construction.

Pre-Construction Activities

Before repairs begin at each location, crews will be onsite to locate utilities, inspect and clean pipes, set up traffic controls and tree protections, stage equipment and materials, and set up sewer bypass systems to ensure uninterrupted sewer service. These Pre-Construction Activities will occur over time, not all at once:

  • Site visits and evaluation
  • Survey
  • Utility locates
  • Soil sampling and geotechnical investigations
  • Pipe cleaning and inspection
  • Maintenance hole inspection
  • Pre-existing conditions photos
  • Tree trimming and protection
  • Erosion control
  • Equipment and material setup
  • Traffic control setup and on-street parking removal
  • Public information distribution

Traffic Controls

The city's contractor will work with the Portland Bureau of Transportation on street use permits and traffic control plans necessary to complete the public 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.

Site Visits and Building Investigations

Environmental Services and its contractors may need to enter buildings in the project area to gather information that will help them design and construct necessary sewer repairs. They may need access for any or all of the following activities:

  • Locate, inspect, and evaluate sewer and stormwater pipes and connections, sewer service laterals, cleanouts, sump pumps, and other private plumbing facilities.
  • Determine basement and sub-basement layouts, utility vault locations and elevators, parking garage layouts, and other private property features.
  • Survey existing sewers on private properties.
  • Identify and mark utilities in areas surrounding the sewer.
  • Collect and analyze soil and water samples.

Environmental Services and its contractors will coordinate with building managers and property owners to schedule site visits, arrange access, and conduct investigations as needed.

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.

Construction Methods

This project will use several construction methods to repair or replace public sewer pipes. Most of the methods will be trenchless, although some of those methods will require digging access pits to install pipes. Trenchless methods avoid having to dig deep and long trenches in downtown streets to replace whole pipes. The multiple underground utilities in the downtown area make major open trench excavation almost impossible. 

The project is currently designed to use the following construction methods:

  • Cured-in-Place-Pipe Lining (CIPP) to install liners that seal cracks, help prevent root intrusion, and restore the pipes to near-new condition.
  • Pipe Bursting and Pipe Reaming to replace and upsize public sewer pipes in SW Main Street and in SW 11th Avenue.
  • Horizontal Directional Drilling to construct sewer extensions and service laterals.
  • Open Trench Excavation to dig small trenches to replace short sections of broken pipe before repairing the entire mainline sewer pipe, and to construct sewer service laterals and access pits.
  • Vactor Excavation to install sewer cleanouts so that crews can access sewer connections to downtown buildings and maintain sewer service during repairs.

Sewer Service Laterals

A sewer service lateral is a pipe that provides a public sewer connection for a house, business, or undeveloped property. It runs from the mainline public sewer in the street to the curb and connects to the property’s private sewer line, or is capped at the property line for future use, e.g., future development or resolution of a nonconforming sewer connection.

A sewer service lateral may be replaced using either the Open Trench Excavation method or a trenchless method such as Cured-in-Place-Pipe Lining or Pipe Bursting.

The City of Portland is responsible for maintaining the public portion of the lateral sewer pipe from the mainline public sewer to the curb. The private property owner is responsible for maintaining the private lateral sewer pipe from the curb to the house or building.

Sewer Cleanouts

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.

We Want to Hear From You

During the design phase, Environmental Services will work with the community to provide information about the project and identify concerns. Downtown property owners, businesses, and residents can inform decisions and help the project team with the following: 

  • Identify project stakeholders, including property managers, facility managers, and business operators. 
  • Identify local issues, community concerns, special events, and access needs. 
  • Develop reasonable solutions to community concerns and construction impacts. 
  • Provide input on regular daytime (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and nighttime (6 p.m. to 7 a.m.)  construction work hours. 
  • Provide information about private property sewer connections and plumbing facilities. 
  • Identify and meet the needs of individual downtown businesses, residents, property owners, and property managers. 

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 SW Market–Madison is your area of concern. Outreach staff will return your call by the next business day. 
  • 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.
  • Other Projects: Learn about other downtown sewer repair projects.

Project Background

The SW Market-Madison Sewer Project is being designed to accomplish the following sewer improvements: 

  • Repair 11,720 feet (more than two miles) of aging public sewer pipes in from SW Market to SW Madison streets between SW Naito Parkway and SW 13th Avenue. 
  • Clear roots and flush debris from public sewer pipes in the project area. 
  • Repair, replace, or add maintenance holes as needed. 
  • Install cleanouts on sewer service laterals to high-rise buildings to enable future sewer maintenance access. 
  • Repair or replace active sewer service laterals for individual property connections. 
  • Assist and support customers with nonconforming sewer connections to achieve the recommended sewer connection for their property. 

In addition, Environmental Services will collaborate with the Portland Water Bureau where possible to replace their water lines with earthquake resistant pipe. Construction in downtown Portland requires coordination with multiple partners.

Sign Up for Updates

Sign up for periodic email or text message updates for the SW Market-Madison Sewer 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.