Traffic Advisory: NW Cornell Road to fully reopen this evening, after crews complete essential repairs to historic tunnels

Traffic Advisory
Beginning at 6 p.m. today, NW Cornell Road will fully reopen to the traveling public as essential repairs to the NW Cornell Tunnels are now substantially complete.
Published
Updated
Photo of completed repair, open Cornell Tunnel 6-17-22

Photograph of completed repair work on NW Cornell Tunnels . Photo by PBOT

Beginning at 6 p.m. today, NW Cornell Road will fully reopen to the traveling public as essential repairs to the NW Cornell Tunnels are now substantially complete. NW Cornell Road has been closed since Aug. 23 between NW 30th and 53rd avenues for essential repairs to the Cornell Tunnels to prevent structural failure.

First constructed by the Works Progress Administration in 1940 and 1941, these historic tunnels have served as a key transportation connection for over 80 years. Repairs to the tunnels were necessitated by the discovery of a large crack near the crown of the western Cornell Tunnel in 2019.

Original Cornell Tunnel plans from 1938

Original Cornell Tunnel plans from 1938

The prolonged closure was required due to the constrained working environment. Located in Forest Park, the tunnels were too narrow to remain open during the required construction. Contractors working for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) used great care while repairing damaged portions of the tunnel linings, while preserving historic nature of the structures and ensuring workers safety. The old lining of both tunnels was removed via hydro-blasting and a new lining was installed with rebar and shotcrete.

Photo of cracking in one of the Cornell Tunnels, prior to repairs.

Photo of cracking in one of the Cornell Tunnels, prior to repairs. Photo by PBOT

Photo of contractors installing shotcrete in one of the Cornell Tunnels.

Photo of contractors installing shotcrete in one of the Cornell Tunnels. Photo by PBOT

In addition to these structural repairs, new LED lighting has been installed in both tunnels to improve safety and energy efficiency. Finally, the stone masonry portals of both tunnels were cleaned and cleared of ivy by PBOT staff.  Now complete, these repairs will extend the useful life of these historic assets.

The closure of a key transportation link like NW Cornell is significant and the project team would like to thank Portlanders for their patience during these extensive repairs and associated detours. Crews will return to calibrate the lights in the tunnels later this summer. This calibration may cause traffic delays but will not require the tunnels to be closed or any detours.

PBOT traffic data from before the pandemic show the tunnels handled roughly 7,000 vehicle trips per day. Now that NW Cornell is reopened, thousands of daily travelers can again rely on this important connection.

Photo of crews from the Portland Bureau of Transportation cleaning the stone masonry portal of one of the Cornell Tunnels.

Photo of crews from the Portland Bureau of Transportation cleaning the stone masonry portal of one of the Cornell Tunnels. Photo by PBOT

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The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is the steward of the City’s transportation system, and a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides access and mobility. Learn more at www.portland.gov/transportation