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NW Thurman Street Bridge Project Painting

Transportation
Upcoming
Given its age and condition, the Balch Gulch Bridge was in critical need of modernization and rehabilitation. Uneven wooden sidewalks caused pedestrians to trip and slip during soggy Portland days.
Thurman Street Bridge - completion 1
Complete Fall 2024

Project Background

Historic Thurman Street Bridge

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is pleased to announce the successful completion of the award-winning NW Thurman St. Bridge Rehabilitation Project.   

The 110 year-old Balch Gulch Bridge was built during the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition and World’s Trade Fair as a gateway to Portland’s developing Willamette Heights neighborhood. As the oldest intact bridge in the region and one of only few remaining of its type in the entire nation, the pin-connected steel deck truss is a noteworthy historic and engineering treasure. In fact, Dr. Robert Hadlow, Oregon Department of Transportation Historian, espoused the bridge as “one of the most significant spans in Oregon.”  

Project Scope

Thurman Street Bridge - completion 2

The Balch Gulch Bridge (Thurman Bridge) stands at over 100 years old as the only one of its kind remaining in the region. This pin-connected steel deck truss has not been painted since the 1940s and is due for a new paint job. The new coating of paint will provide the corrosion protection necessary to extend the service life of the historic treasure for decades to come. This project will replace or rehabilitate the paint system, the steel truss bridge elements, and rehabilitate deterred structural members as required. The project is only funded through design at this point. Design will begin when NTP is issued by ODOT. Construction to start Spring 2024. Considering the age of the bridge and its poor condition, it would have been so easy to replace it with a shiny new one. However the easy path was not chosen. Given its unique characteristics, its special place in Portland history, and its eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places, rehabilitation of the Balch Gulch Bridge was really the only viable option. 

Federal-aid funds were sought and obtained to rehabilitate the bridge by replacing all components above the historic deck trusses. After a local agency match, the total project budget was approximately $4 million. 

The historic handmade and antique bridge was lovingly restored with a new sidewalk, deck, and rail system. The riveted steel beams were replaced with modern replica versions. As a result, the weight restriction was lifted from the 110-year old bridge, the oldest intact span in Oregon.  

Goals Accomplished 

The decision to preserve the historic bridge inspired the public and government agencies alike. It also inspired PBOT to set the following goals: 

  • Rehabilitate the bridge’s deteriorated superstructure while maintaining and honoring the historic aesthetics of the bridge
     
  • Restore the original appearance of the 1905 historic bridge handrail, but strengthen it to meet modern safety standards
  • Ensure that Lower Macleay Park remains open to the public during construction
  • Install new lighting across the bridge for pedestrian safety and visibility 
  • Keep the public constantly informed of progress by holding meetings, establishing a telephone hotline, creating a project website and publishing monthly newsletters 
     

Awards 

The success of the project has been recognized outside of PBOT. It has earned the following awards: 

  • American Public Works Association - National Project of the Year (Historical Preservation)
     
  • Oregon Heritage Commission - Heritage Excellence Award
     
  • American Public Works Association, Oregon Chapter - Project of the Year (Historical Preservation)
     
  • ODOT Geo-Environmental - Professional Partnership Award
     

Read theproject celebration news release here.

Planning Documents

Map