Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image

MLK (Martin Luther King, Jr.) Viaduct

Project Summary:An approximately $71.5 million project to realign and replace the MLK, Jr. Boulevard and Grand Avenue viaducts in SE Portland.
Construction Status and Timeline:Phase 1 was completed in spring 2007.
Phase 2 began in February 2007 and will continue through project completion by fall 2011 (weather depending).
Latest Information:Look here for the weekly construction news that details traffic impacts on the project, updated every Friday.
The MLK Viaduct southbound load limit was raised to 80,000 pounds in September 2009. More information here

Project Update
The project’s second phase is under way. This phase is focused on the actual replacement of the viaduct structures and will see the project through completion by fall 2011, weather depending. The contractor is Max J. Kuney of Spokane, Wash.
What will the road alignment look like after the project is completedClick here for an aerial graphic showing the alignment.
Traffic will be impacted more intensely during the second phase.  However, four lanes of traffic through the construction zone of Highway 99E (two lanes in each direction) will be maintained throughout most of the construction period. Specific activities will require special closures of one or more lanes in each direction on nights and weekends. ODOT will inform the public in advance of any closure to allow motorists to plan for alternative routes. Traffic will be shifted throughout the project to allow for construction activities.
As of June 2011, remaining work includes finishing the sidewalks, railing, lighting and plantings on the decks of the viaducts, and final paving and striping.
The first phase of the project began in May 2006 and was completed in spring 2007. The primary focus of the first phase was on roadway, utility and drainage work under the viaduct. This work needed to be completed before construction on the viaduct replacement began.

Project History & Description
The MLK Viaduct, which serves southbound traffic on Highway 99E, was built in 1936 on the edge of a wetland filled with sawmill waste up to 66 feet deep.  As a result, the structure has several columns and spans that have visibly settled.  The railings, joints, columns and beams are deteriorating.  Because of its condition, the viaduct is posted for legal loads only.  Southbound overweight vehicles are not allowed to cross the viaduct.  The Grand Avenue structure, built in 1965, serving northbound traffic, does not meet today’s standards for width or safety.
The viaducts carry approximately 60,000 vehicles per day with traffic peaks exceeding 6,000 vehicles per hour.  About 10% of the vehicles are trucks.  Oregon 99E is the primary commuter and freight route between downtown Portland and the southeastern metropolitan area.

The project area includes SE MLK, Jr. Boulevard and SE Grand Avenue between SE Mill Street and the Ross Island Bridge. 
After three years of study, the Portland City Council approved the plans for the new viaduct in July 2002.  The viaduct plans call for four vehicle lanes (two lanes in each direction), bike lanes and sidewalks.  Some of the approved design elements include:
• Architectural features sympathetic to the removed historic viaduct including four prominent pylons and historical-style illumination

• Pedestrian ramp improvements at 6th Avenue connecting Woodward with Powell Boulevard and the Ross Island Bridge

• Pedestrian ramps on both sides of the viaduct at Division Place connecting pedestrians on the viaduct with streets below

• Landscaped bridgeheads, planted median and several planters supported between the structures

• 8-foot sidewalks and 6-foot shoulder/bikeway along new MLK viaduct and 7-foot sidewalks and 5-foot shoulder/bikeway on Grand Avenue viaduct

• Access improvements at Woodward Street for northbound traffic on and off Highway 99E.  Improvements include a merge ramp for traffic from Woodward to Highway 99E and the addition of a dedicated turn lane for vehicles turning from Woodward, left to 6th Avenue.  The exit ramp from Highway 99E to Taggart Street will be eliminated.

• Repaving 4th Avenue between Caruthers and Ivon, improving railroad crossings at Ivon and Division Place, and repaving other streets and areas below the viaducts

• Interpretive panels will be installed in the pylons to describe the historic viaduct, the Inman-Poulsen Lumber Company, and the history of the area

• Under-bridge lighting will be installed for the areas under the viaducts.


Traffic Impacts
Four lanes of traffic through the construction zone of Highway 99E (two lanes in each direction) will be maintained throughout the majority of project construction.  Traffic will be shifted during each construction phase to allow for construction activities.  Read the weekly construction news for current traffic impacts, updated every Friday.  Other traffic impacts include:
• Reduction in posted travel speed in the construction zone

• Elimination of parking under the viaduct during construction

• Street closures (usually only one block at a time) and detours under the viaduct.

• Bicycle and pedestrian access will be prohibited on the viaducts for the project duration

• Existing transit stop on MLK Boulevard at Mill Street will be closed during portions of Phase 2 construction
Special Closures
During specific activities of the construction process during Phase 2, there will be periods when construction on the viaduct will require special closures of one or more lanes in each direction on nights and weekends. ODOT will inform the public and allow users to plan for alternative routes in advance of any closures.
Weekend Beam Placements
To place large beams required for the new viaduct during Phase 2 of the project, there will be approximately 13 weekends spread throughout the project when traffic will be reduced to one travel lane in each direction.  When the beams are being lifted into place, both directions of traffic will be stopped for up to 10 minutes.  During the 10-minute closures, traffic will have marked alternative routes available.

Community Coordination
Numerous open houses and a public hearing have provided forums for public input into the design process.  ODOT will continue to meet with viaduct neighbors, business owners and other key stakeholder groups throughout this project. 
An MLK Viaduct Design Review Advisory Committee was formed in 1999 to help ODOT design a new viaduct that addressed the aesthetic standards of the community.  The committee included architects, engineers, planners, artists and representatives from the City of Portland and area neighborhood and business associations.

Viaduct History
The original Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard (Union Avenue) portion of the structure was built by Hoffman Construction Company of Portland in 1936, at a cost of $459,000. This Roosevelt-era Works Progress Administration project brought many needed jobs to Portland-area residents. The Grand Avenue couplet was added to the viaduct in 1965.  The viaducts provide Oregon Route 99E with a grade-separated crossing over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.
At 1,639 feet, it is the longest concrete slab, beam and girder-style structure in Oregon. A prominent decorative feature of the viaduct is its concrete, Tudor drop-arch railing.
View historic photos of the MLK, Jr. Boulevard viaduct

ODOT Contact Information
If you have questions about this project or would like to be added to the mailing list, please contact:
Elizabeth Craig, ODOT Community Affairs Coordinator