Business

Construction Projects Beat A Rhythm For Downtown Life

OPB | Jan. 23, 2008 8:33 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:17 a.m. | Portland, OR

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By Kristian Foden-Vencil

As anyone who lives, works or commutes through downtown Portland can tell you — it’s a mess.

Orange traffic cones funnel cars down roads their drivers don’t want to go down.  Several streets have been dug up — as sewage pipes and light-rail lines are laid down.  Not to mention, a number of  city blocks that have completely disappeared — as diggers, concrete trucks and construction workers build new skyscrapers.

But, as Kristian Foden-Vencil reports, while there’ll always be some construction downtown, a few of the projects are moving into a less troublesome phase.


All told, about 20 construction project are running in downtown Portland.  There are office blocks,  parking lots, apartment towers, sewage pipes and light-rail lines.

On one block, which stands next to the World Trade Center and the Federal Courthouse, a monstrous hammering has been beating for weeks.

Daniel Edgar: “For a period of time it was really annoying. You’d drive yourself bonkers listening to it.”

Daniel Edgar works for PGE. His office looks out over the site where crews are driving metal pilings 80 feet into the ground.

Like many of his coworkers, he’s been suffering. But Edgar decided to record the sound and use it with his band, Monody.

Daniel Edgar: “I always try to look for opportunities to combine different atmospheric sounds or the organic element to the work we’re doing. It’s mostly electronic music, but I might fly in something like a jet taking off or construction noise in this case and things like that. And really try to make use of the sounds we hear environmentally around us.”

Still, Edgar was happy to learn the pounding is scheduled to finish this week.

A few blocks west, 6th Avenue is being torn up to lay new light-rail lines.  Downtown worker Jonna Mockanin uses a parking garage on the street.

Jonna Mockanin: “I come from Southwest, so I have to go up and around and come down Salmon to get in. So with 6 being closed it’s a pain. And fourth is really busy because everyone is on 4th instead of on 6th.”

Kristian: “Now, is this just the price of living in an up and coming city, or are you getting really ticked off with it?”

Jonna Mockanin: “Well I’m glad they’re expanding the Max. I think the Max is great, so I think it’s okay.”

That’s music to the ears of Ellen Vanderslice. She the project manager for ‘Keep Portland Moving,’ the City of Portland group that tries to keep the city’s streets flowing smoothly.

Ellen Vanderslice: “I think everyone would have to agree, this is an unusually busy time for downtown Portland. The mall project alone is such a large project and it generated some other projects that had to be done in conjunction with it. One of which was the downtown water mains project, which was a very large project to replace the transmission lines in downtown Portland that were put in place back when Bull Run opened in 1895.”

Kristian: “Now there are a couple of different projects that are running at the moment that are going to sunset soon.”

Ellen Vanderslice: “Yes that’s right the Burnside Bridge project has been going on for the last year. It’ll close one more time in the spring for permanent striping, because they have to have a nice warm day for the permanent striping, but the Burnside Bridge rehabilitation is essentially over. And the Burnside Sewer project, that project is nearly wrapped up as well in about three more weeks or so we’ll see the end of that.

Vanderslice says most of the heavy construction for the mall project should be finished by the summer.

Meanwhile, if you have a problem or you want to know where to record other construction noise, you can call her at 865 MOVE.

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