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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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Customer Service: 503-823-7770


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Sept. 2019 Project Update: Willamette River Crossing

Portland’s water mains (pipes) 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 main deep under the Willamette River, is part of the Water Bureau’s commitment to preparedness. This new water pipe will help ensure that we can deliver safe and abundant water to the west side, even after an earthquake.

In May 2019, we gave a design-build team lead by J.W. Fowler Company notice to proceed. We chose this team because of their innovative proposal to combine two modern construction methods—Horizontal Directional Drilling and Microtunneling—to bury pipe deep in bedrock, where it will be more protected from earthquake risks and have less impact on businesses, the public, and the environment.

Now that we have our team together, we will start sending more frequent updates as we engage with the public during the design phase. We look forward to keeping you informed about this important project.

Current Phase

The Willamette River Crossing Project is currently in the design and exploration phase. This phase includes locating underground utilities and conducting a geotechnical probe, which will provide important information about the soil deep underground and help us confirm the best path across the river.

For more details about each phase, visit the project website at

Upcoming Activities

Parking lot and stairway closure: The parking lot and stairway at SW Naito Pkwy between Harrison and Market streets will now be closed to the public for the duration of the project. Use the ADA accessible ramp on the south end of the parking lot as a detour for the stairway.

Activity along SW Naito Pkwy and Harbor Dr between Harrison St and Market St: In October, crews will start digging to allow for an exploratory drill to be placed on the site. This excavation will be fairly deep (20-30 feet) and visible from Harbor Avenue. Crews will then install a temporary wall around the excavation to allow for safe drilling within the area. Temporary lane closures may be in effect on SW Harbor Dr.

Site exploration and field work: In September and October, crews will begin conducting site exploration and field work on the east and west sides of the river.

  • At site exploration locations, crews will use large trucks to excavate in the street, sidewalk, and/or public right-of-way to find the exact locations of underground utilities and assess conditions at the site.
  • At field work locations, crews will conduct soil testing and measure underground soil conditions by using large trucks to drill small-diameter holes in the street, sidewalk, and/or public right-of-way. When exploration and field work activities are complete, crews will fill the holes with material similar to what was there before.

Site Exploration Locations

  • SE Stephens from 7th to 10th Ave
  • SE Harrison from SE 7th to 11th Ave
  • SE 7th Ave between Stephens St & Harrison
  • SE Water Ave near OMSI
  • The parking lot to the west of SW Naito Pkwy between Harrison St & Market St (shown in grey area in the map above)
  • SW Harbor Dr & Mill
  • SW Harbor Way & Mill
  • SE Grand Ave & Stephens St

Field Work Locations

  • SE Grand Ave between Division & Hawthorne
  • SE 7th Ave between Stephens St & Harrison St
  • SE Harrison from SE 7th to 11th Ave.

What to Expect

  • Temporary paint markings in the street, sidewalk, and/or public right-of-way.
  • Drilling equipment (a drill rig on a trailer and a utility truck) staged at the exploration location. You may see construction equipment and workers digging a hole and installing devices to create a safe working environment.
  • Equipment noise at approximately 90 decibels. (A power lawn mower is approximately 100 decibels.)
  • Traffic controls, depending on location. 
  • Driveways blocked for up to a half hour while utilities are located.
  • Some parking spaces used during exploration. The street will remain open with some minor delays.


Work hours are generally between 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Work schedules are subject to change due to contractor availability and weather.

More Information 
 Water service emergencies: 503-823-4874

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