Over the course of the paving work, PBOT decided to reconstruct the southbound section of SE 50th Avenue from SE Division Street northward towards SE Lincoln Street due to poor and unsafe road infrastructure from unused rail trolleys below the roadway. The trolley rails were built on SE 50th Ave in 1909, but when the trolleys were decommissioned, the rails were paved over to make roads for vehicle use. From the 1980s through the mid-2000s, much of the road maintenance on SE 50th involved grinding and repaving asphalt on top of the buried rails.
For years, residents of the area, and all other Portlanders who use this street, have witnessed hazardous potholes and a few areas with rail exposure potentially causing bike crashes, slippery conditions for pedestrians, and tire damage to vehicles.
When construction commenced on SE 50th in March 2018, and the new ADA ramp curbs were built, the algebraic grade break didn’t meet ADA standards due to high slope grade caused by the rails beneath the roadway. Simply grinding and repaving the road to meet ADA requirements would not fix the issue, as the rails could still be exposed over time and create unsafe conditions.
Moreover, with the frequent service of TriMet Line 14, coupled with the increase of car and truck traffic, the structural base of the street pavement on SE 50th would deteriorate quickly thanks to deteriorating wood ties, broken concrete pavement, and bricks as well as voids and sinkholes due to damaged clay sewer pipes and manholes.