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Willamette River Crossing project overview

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Bridge looking over the Willamette with pipes illistated below the water and soil is visible.
The Willamette River Crossing project will deliver water to the west side of the river, even after an earthquake. The improvements we’re making will enhance our water system’s resilience and reduce future risks, ensuring safe and abundant water for generations to come.
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Overview

Portland’s water mains that cross the Willamette River are more than 50 years old and will probably not survive a major earthquake. The Willamette River Crossing Project, which will build an earthquake-resilient water line under the Willamette River, is part of the Water Bureau’s investment in preparedness. The improvements we’re making will enhance our water system’s resilience and reduce future risks, ensuring safe and abundant water for generations to come.

The Water Bureau has worked for the past several decades to increase the number of water supply facilities that can withstand earthquakes. Reservoirs at Kelly Butte, Powell Butte, and Washington Park all meet seismic standards. The Willamette River Crossing is the next step in strengthening our system to make it more resistant to earthquakes. The new pipe is critical for bringing water to the west side of town.

This illustration of Portland's water system shows water travelling from the Bull Run Watershed and Columbia South Shore Well Field to reservoirs at Powell and Kelley Buttes. The water will flow from the reservoirs on the east side under the Willamette River via the Willamette River Crossing to Washington Park Reservoir on the west side of downtown Portland.

As part of the Water Bureau’s Capital Improvement Program, this project is funded by revenue bond proceeds paid back with the utility ratepayers’ fund. This means current and future ratepayers contribute to the project.

Project timeline and phases

Timing has changed for implementation of the final phases of design and construction. The project is on pause for about a year, after which time we will complete the design and re-engage with the public about construction of the crossing. On this tentative schedule, construction would begin in fiscal year 2027-28.

Learn more on our FAQ page.  

Project locations

On the West side of the river, most construction impacts will take place near South Harbor Drive and South Montgomery, as well as South Waterfront Park.  On the East side of the river, construction will take place along SE Water Avenue close to the PCC Climb Center and OMSI, at SE 3rd Avenue and SE Stephens Street, on SE Stephens Street between SE Grand Boulevard and SE 7th Avenue, along SE 7th Avenue between SE Stephens and Harrison, and on SE Harrison Street between SE 7th and SE 10th Avenues.
The blue lines on the map above show where construction will take place.

Work on this project will take place on both the east and west sides of the river. There will be construction in locations where we:

  • install pipe in trenches,
  • connect to the existing water system, and
  • build shafts to send tunneling machines underground.

The project will use three different tunneling technologies to install pipe underground, in addition to installing pipe in trenches closer to the road surface.

This graphic shows the path of the pipe underground. On the west side there will be open trench work and a microtunnel. We will use Direct Pipe to build the pipe under the river, then bore and jack under the railroad. We will install the pipe in a trench near the road surface between SE 3rd and SE 10th Avenues.
Cutaway graphic showing the route the pipe will take underground.

East-side plans

  • Trench work: Between Southeast 3rd and Southeast 10th Avenues, we will replace pipes close to the road surface. We will cut a trench into the road surface and install pipe in the trench. This is much like the standard work we do replacing water mains across the city, except the pipe is bigger and will require a wider trench.
  • Direct steerable pipe: We will launch a direct pipe tunnel boring machine from a shaft near Water Avenue between PCC and OMSI. The machine will drill under the river from east to west from this location, and the dirt removed for installing the pipe will be collected and removed at this location. Our contractor plans to use a former electrical transformer site for much of this work.
  • Jack and Bore: We will use a different tunneling technology called Jack and Bore to install a pipe under the railroad from west to east at this location.

West-side plans

  • Montgomery shaft: The direct pipe tunnel boring machine will travel under the river from east to west, and arrive in a shaft, or deep hole, in South Waterfront Park on the west side of the river. This shaft will be 30 feet in diameter and 100 feet deep. Two sections of pipe will be welded together at an angle at the bottom of this shaft. Once the pipe is installed, the contractor will fill in the shaft and restore the park.
  • Microtunnel: Crews will launch a microtunnel machine from the large shaft in South Waterfront Park to a smaller and shallower shaft in S Harbor Drive.
  • Trench work: At Harbor Drive, we will install the pipe in a trench closer to the road surface and connect it to the water system near SW Naito Parkway.

Contact

WRX Project Team

phone number503-823-7499Project Voicemail/Hotline - Press zero at any time to skip the message and leave a voicemail. Please leave your name and phone number twice. A staff person will call you within one to three business days. To report a water service emergency, call 503-823-4874.
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