Extreme heat challenges Oregon infrastructure

Oregon

From buckling roads to public transit shutdowns, record-high temperatures caused problems across the state

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — From buckling roads to a pause in public transit services, extreme heat caused some extreme problems for Oregon’s infrastructure.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation said North Denver Avenue buckled when the concrete expanded due to the heat. Crews were working to remove the top layer of the road on Tuesday and hoped to have it reopened by Wednesday. PBOT spokesperson Hannah Schafer said no underground utilities were damaged but drivers should expect the road to “be a bit rough.”

A road in Yamhill County also buckled under the conditions. A couple who live in the area reported feeling a massive tremor on Sunday night. Mark Lago with Yamhill County Public Works said the incident was “very unusual” and crews were working to repair it.

The triple-digit heat also shut down some Portland public transportation. The city’s streetcar service paused service with officials saying they made the decision out of consideration of their passengers and employees.

“We had a number of issues surrounding the alignment and the extreme heat: Power substations going down, cable issues on the Broadway Bridge — which is over 100-year-old piece of infrastructure — dry tree limb coming down across the wires. So Sunday afternoon we made the decision to cancel service,” said Andrew Plambeck with Portland Streetcar. “Mostly we didn’t want to leave riders stranded in the heat if they were to try to travel somewhere and have the power system go down.”

The streetcar service was back up and running on Tuesday. Plambeck said shutting it down is a very rare occurrence and while there are no immediate plans to make any major changes, officials hope the city invests more in infrastructure in the future.

“We would love to see a greater investment in infrastructure, making sure things are more reliable, whether it’s the expected earthquake for the northwest, extreme weather events — it’s always important to make sure your critical infrastructure is ready to go and ready for the worst,” Plambeck said.

Schafer said PBOT is relieved the heat-related damage wasn’t worse this time but the city will need to be cautious moving forward.

“Frankly, we have a maintenance backlog of $4 billion in the city of Portland for our road systems. We already know we have a lot of repairs that are needed. I think that, combined with the potential for additional damage because climate, it could, climate change could be a very expensive proposition for our city,” Schafer said. “These are considerations that we didn’t have to take into account in the past that we will moving forward.”

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