News Blog: PBOT Maintenance Crews install ADA-compliant curb ramps along NE Fremont Street

Blog Post
Find the historic Freemont curb stamps and win a prize!

(March 31, 2021) The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s (PBOT’s) Maintenance Operations crews have been hard at work updating curb ramps along a 10 mile segment of Fremont Street. PBOT is paving and grinding Fremont Street from 59th Avenue to Williams Avenue, as a part of the city’s ongoing maintenance work. An essential component of PBOT’s work on Fremont Street is bringing the curb ramps up to current Americans for Disability Act (ADA) standards. So far, they’ve constructed 300 curb ramps, and that number is growing each week.  

“All the crews that are doing the work really care about the work that they’re doing,” said Tom Bennett, PBOT’s Maintenance Operations Sidewalks Program Manager. “Everyone on our team has really bought into the idea that, by providing curb ramps, it provide much better accessibility to the traveling public, especially with wheelchair travel or travel for people with vision impairment.  We really want to make the city as accessible as possible.”

Maintenance Operations works in lists, identifying a set of 10 intersections at a time. First, Engineering Technicians visit the site of the curb ramp and establish a plan to make the ramp ADA-compliant. The technicians mark their plan on the sidewalk, so that the saw-cutting crews can cut out the existing sidewalk and street. Then, an excavating crew digs out the site. Another crew forms the site, adding pieces of plywood and lumber to shape the site. They pour the concrete out onto the form and wait for the concrete to cure. Finally, a clean-up crew comes out to remove the lumber and restore the site to a working condition.   

A curb that's been painted with plans for curb ramp improvement.
A curb that's been painted with plans for curb ramp improvement.

PBOT’s Maintenance Operations has also constructed curb ramps for other Capital Improvements Projects, such as Fixing Our Streets and Safe Routes to School. In 2020 alone, they constructed 512 curb ramps across Portland. 

The Maintenance Operations crew has been working throughout COVID-19 to serve Portland. They’ve taken proactive steps to keep one another safe while working, including maintaining strict social distancing, wearing masks, and transitioning to virtual meetings. A lot of the crews’ work is labor-intensive, like pouring concrete, so they worked hard to adjust, including site visits and smaller check-ins.  

“Accessibility is huge to the city, and we want to be one of, if not the nation’s, best in terms of pedestrian accessibility. We have a lot of crews that will get us there.” said Bennett. 

Why do some curbs have misspelled street names?

You may have noticed that some curbs are stamped with names that appear to be misspelled. This is intentional; although streets have changed names over the years, the City of Portland has worked hard to preserve some pieces of Portland history.  

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

These misspelled street names are relatively rare. You can find them on some spots, such as NE 35th Avenue and Tillamook Street, where the southeast corner of the street is spelled “Tillmok”, or at N Overlook Boulevard and Overlook Terrace, which still has a curb stamp from when Overlook Terrace was called “Wemme Avenue”. These unique curb stamps are a reminder of Portland’s history, preserved right under our feet.  

An example of a misspelled street name that has been preserved for historical accuracy
An example of a misspelled street name that has been preserved for historical accuracy

Find the misspelled Fremont stamps and win a prize!

With the weather turning warmer, now is the perfect time for a stroll and a scavenger hunt. Sharp-eyed Portlanders who spot a misspelled Fremont stamp and email us the location and a picture will win a SmartPark or BIKETOWN voucher. The first five people to send us a correct location will win. Please send your entry to PBOTCommunications@portlandoreg…. Include a picture of the stamp and the location with your email.