The Bull Run Bridge is closed to all traffic weighing over 12 tons. Special use permits for heavy loads will not be approved.
The Bull Run River Bridge crosses the Bull Run River north of the Sandy area. The portion of the bridge above the foundation (superstructure) is more than 126 years old and comes from a span of Portland’s Burnside Bridge that was constructed in 1894. The Bull Run Bridge section was moved to its current location in 1926.
The bridge is nearing the end of its useful life and requires increasingly expensive repair and maintenance projects in order to keep it open. In 2021 truck weight restrictions were placed on the bridge and the bridge’s roadway was reduced to one lane in order to preserve its remaining life. This is a critical access point for the City of Portland’s water system that supplies water to much of the Portland area.
It is anticipated a new Bull Run River Bridge would be constructed next to the current structure.
30% design is complete; design and right-of-way acquisition are fully funded.
Updated: Oct. 12, 2023
To remove weight restrictions for trucks and to ensure connections exist for emergency response, access for timber industry, Portland Water Bureau and residents of an isolated rural area.
We anticipate the schedule as follows:
- Design: Spring 2024 - Fall 2026
- Right of way: Winter 2025 - Fall 2026
- Construction: Spring 2027 - Fall 2028 (dependent on future grant funding)
The Bull Run Bridge was originally constructed in 1894 as part of the Burnside Bridge over the Willamette River in downtown Portland, and was moved to its current location in 1926. The Bull Run Bridge crosses the Bull Run River and is a key access point to the Bull Run Reservoirs, which provide clean water to over 1 million customers in the Portland area.
Further deterioration of the structure could require the bridge to be closed to all traffic in the next five to 10 years if it is not replaced. A closure would require residents, businesses and emergency services to use a lengthy detour route to reach homes and businesses in the Bull Run River watershed.
A recent inspection of the bridge by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) identified some components in worse condition compared to the prior inspection. ODOT developed a new load rating for the bridge based on the latest conditions of the bridge, which resulted in new weight restrictions.
Over time, the natural processes of deterioration and constant use take their toll on bridges and can leave a bridge with less capacity than when it was originally designed and built. Also, the size and weight of freight and emergency vehicles has been increasing steadily. Because most of Oregon’s bridges were not designed for current vehicle sizes and weights, many of our aging bridges cannot safely carry all modern loads. These bridges must be posted to limit traffic to the loads they can safely carry without impairing structure or safety.
Navigating the weight restrictions for commercial freight businesses
While this closure to vehicles over 12 tons is resulting in much longer travel times, it is necessary to maintain critical access for community members’ daily and recreational use, and for emergency services. Therefore, we can no longer provide special use permits for heavy loads due to the declining condition of the bridge.
Trucks and other vehicles that weigh over 12 tons must travel on Gordon Creek Road in Multnomah County, which also has two bridges with weight restrictions for certain types of vehicles. Multnomah County bridge information.
Funding secured for design and right of way costs
On May 10, 2023 our board approved staff to formally request the reallocation of previously awarded design funding from Dodge Park Bridge to Bull Run Bridge from the Local Agency Bridge Selection Committee, a statewide committee under ODOT’s purview. This group determines how federal funding in the state will be spent for local bridges based on performance scores.
To date, the county has invested funds to do 30% design analysis (a type, size, location and cost study) which has shaved off about a year of design work. These new funds will allow us to fund the entire design and acquire right of way needed for the eventual construction of the new bridge. Although the county has applied to seven grants between 2018-2022 and none were awarded, this commitment for the full design has put us in a better position to acquire funding for construction through future grant dollars.
- Total project estimate: $20 million
- $2 million funded for design and right of way work from Oregon Local Agency Bridge Selection Committee (LABSC), plus a local match for $205,700 from the Road Fund.
- Additional funding for construction has not yet been secured, other than the future county funding match. The county will continue to apply for grant funds. There is also a chance that, in the 2027-30 funding cycle, the LABSC will provide funds to construct the bridge, although there’s only a total of $16 million per year for similar bridges statewide in this fund. The county is also talking with the City of Portland and Portland Water Bureau about the need to replace the Bull Run Bridge, and they have expressed interest in supporting the project.
Frequently Asked Questions
The county has invested in funding the beginning stage of engineering design for a new bridge. So far we have 30% design plans that analyze the best location to build a replacement bridge based on cost and environmental requirements. Road, bridge and seismic criteria will follow state and federal standards.
Based on average daily traffic and anticipated future growth, standards require 11-foot lanes, with 6-foot paved shoulders on each side of the road, and 8-foot paved shoulders on each side of the bridge.
Three alternatives are being considered for the new bridge location. These options consider factors such as the horizontal and vertical alignments, slopes and landslide risk, connection to the road and the length and sharpness of the curves, drainage flow, water surface and flood projections, potential areas for construction equipment, and the costs for potential right of way, environmental and construction requirements.
We have conducted studies to analyze the water levels and forecast large flood events, and to analyze the stability of the material underground and the feasibility of specific construction methods. We considered several bridge types for the future design. A 250-foot single span steel box-shaped bridge is the only type of structure considered to be possible with the estimated budget, design criteria and site limitations.119611
Yes, for vehicles that weigh less than 12 tons. While the bridge needs to be replaced because of age, usage and vehicle load restrictions, recent engineering calculations show the bridge is adequate to carry the posted weight. It is still safe to cross the bridge within the weight limit restrictions, but it is deficient in many other respects and may need to be closed within the next 5 to 10 years.
We will continue to monitor the structural integrity of the bridge along with the Oregon Department of Transportation. Further restrictions are possible. If the bridge is found to be unsafe in an upcoming inspection, we will close the bridge.119611
Heavy loads can impact the structure and safety of bridges by causing significant stresses to the bridge components resulting in cracking or structural failure. To reduce the stresses of the wrought iron components of the Bull Run Bridge, we must limit heavy loads from crossing until the bridge can be replaced. If we do not limit the heavy loads from trucks, we risk closing the bridge entirely until funds can be found to replace it.
One vehicle crossing Bull Run Bridge at a time in the center of the bridge reduces the weight of traffic, has less impact on the structure and will help preserve the remaining life of the bridge. This change is expected to be permanent until the bridge is replaced.119611
A recent inspection of the bridge identified some components in worse condition compared to the prior inspection. The Oregon Department of Transportation developed a new load rating for the bridge based on the latest conditions of the bridge, resulting in new weight restrictions.
Over time, the natural processes of deterioration and constant use take their toll on bridges. The deterioration and use can leave a bridge with less capacity than it was originally designed and built. Also, the size and weight of freight and emergency vehicles has been increasing steadily. Because most of Oregon’s bridges were not designed for current vehicle sizes and weights, many of our aging bridges cannot safely carry all modern loads. These bridges must be posted to limit traffic to the loads they can safely carry without impairing structure or safety.119611
We don’t know. There are limited funding sources to replace bridges on the county system. We’ve applied for several federal grants to replace the bridge, but have not been awarded any grant funds to date. A grant application is pending, and we expect to find out if the project will be chosen for federal funding. In addition, the Board of County Commissioners approved the Bull Run Bridge replacement project as a county priority for federal earmark funding. The cost to replace the bridge is estimated at $14 million.119611
Heavy loads can impact the structure and safety of the bridge by causing significant stresses to the bridge components that can result in cracking or structural failure. To reduce the stresses on the wrought iron components of the Bull Run Bridge, we must limit heavy loads from crossing until the bridge can be replaced. If we do not limit the heavy loads from trucks, we risk closing the bridge entirely until funds can be found to replace it.119611
The detour from Sandy to the Bull Run Bridge is 35 miles long and takes about 60 minutes traveling from US 26, to Burnside Road, to 232nd Ave, to OR 84/30, to Corbett Hill Road, to Evans Road, to Gordon Creek Road to Bull Run Road.119611
Emergency vehicles that weigh 12 tons or less are allowed. Based on load-rating test, we can allow standard two-axle fire trucks and three-axle water tenders to cross the bridge, with the conditions that they come to a full stop before crossing and then travel one at a time in the center of the bridge at less than 5 miles per hour. Ambulances and small brush fire vehicles can cross without restrictions. Other larger fire trucks are too heavy to cross the bridge.119611
If you witness trucks crossing the bridge that you think could be over 12 tons, you may report the incident by calling the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number at 503-655-8211.119611
If the grant is not awarded, we could continue designing a new bridge, which would reduce the timeline to construct a new bridge when we do receive funds. This option would require us to take funds from other projects or find replacement funds. So far we have 30% design plans to investigate the best location to build the replacement bridge based on cost and environmental requirements. With those plans we have reduced the construction timeline by approximately one year.119611