Want to see something unsettling?
Check out this video, obtained via Oregon records law request, of Multnomah County engineers examining the crazy deterioration of the Morrison Bridge's three-year-old deck last week.
The money shot—accompanied by a low whistle from a member county's bridge team—starts about 22 seconds in, and continues until the 2 minute mark. The video, and background commentary, shows the mounting revulsion of county staff as they find piece after piece of the deck has come apart more seriously than we'd known.
It's not hard to see this isn't how you want one of your busiest bridges to look. The lane that the workers are examining—closed hurriedly after this footage was taken—is the Morrison's north-most lane. It takes people rushing from I-5 west into downtown.
What's most interesting, though, is just how the bridge is failing. We've known since 2013 that screws on the deck were coming loose. And we knew that the county found, and accepted, panels that appeared to have cracks. This is something else.
Here's a drawing of the type of piece you're looking at in the video. The red arrow indicates the area that's breaking:
The piece is made of a material called fiber-reinforced polymer, and it's the central structural component that's supposed to give the Morrison's deck strength. In 2011 and 2012, contractors bolted dozens of these onto skeletal portions of the bridge, then screwed flat pieces of polymer over the top. And we've known, as I say, that those flat top pieces began coming undone almost as soon as cars drove on the new deck.
What the video above shows is that the bottom pieces—again, the central component of the deck—have started dramatically cracking apart. In a court hearing last week, an attorney for the county called this damage "the worst fear" for the Morrison Bridge, and it's not hard to see what he means.
The extent of the damage raises questions about how long the remainder of the deck panels will hold up, and county officials say they don't know. It also makes it harder to understand why the county would have accepted deck pieces that look like this for the project:
Here's another video, for good measure.You can read our past coverage on the Morrison Bridge here.