Photo Courtesy of APWA
Photo Courtesy of APWA Photo Courtesy of APWA

Portland’s 110-year-old Balch Gulch Bridge at NW Thurman Street Rehabilitation Project was recently named a 2015 Public Works Project of the Year by the American Public Works Association (APWA). The managing agency, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation; and primary contractor, Cascade Bridge, LLC; as well as the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation, as the primary design consultant; these were presented with the national Project of the Year Award at the Awards Ceremony during APWA’s 2015 International Public Works Congress & Exposition Awards Ceremony in Phoenix, Arizona held August 30-September 2, 2015.

The APWA Public Works Projects of the Year awards are presented annually to promote excellence in the management and administration of public works projects, recognizing the alliance between the managing agency, contractor, consultant and their cooperative achievements. This year, APWA selected projects in five categories: Disaster/Emergency, Environment, Historical Restoration, Structures and Transportation.

The Balch Gulch Bridge at NW Thurman Street Rehabilitation Project was awarded the APWA Project of the Year in the Historical Restoration/Preservation category at a cost less than $5 million. The bridge is 110 years old and is a noteworthy historic and engineering treasure, built during the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition and World’s Trade Fair as a gateway to Portland’s developing Willamette Heights neighborhood. It is Oregon’s oldest intact bridge, and is one of only few remaining truss bridges in the nation.

The rehabilitation project exemplifies the integration of contemporary uses and systems for an out-of-date structure without compromising function or historic preservation. The decision to preserve the historic bridge was inspired not only by the public and government agencies, but also by the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation. The age of the bridge and its poor condition, its unique characteristics, and its special place in Portland history, as well as its eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places, made the rehabilitation of the Balch Gulch Bridge the only viable option. Federal-aid funds were sought and obtained, and after a local agency match, the total project budget was approximately $4 million.

Restoration and rehabilitation of the bridge began in April 2014 with the goals: to lift the weight restriction without replacing the historic trusses; rehabilitate the bridge’s deteriorated superstructure while maintaining and honoring the historic aesthetics of the bridge; restore the original appearance of the 1905 historic bridge handrail, but strengthen it to meet modern safety standards; design the modern steel floor beams to match the shape of the deteriorated historic riveted steel beams; replace the deteriorated wood deck and riveted steel beams, while shoring the historic trusses in place; and ensure that Macleay Park would remain open to the public during construction.

The completely restored and modernized Balch Gulch Bridge at NW Thurman Street was reopened to the public October 10, 2014 during a celebration hosted by Commissioner Steve Novick and the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

For more information on the APWA 2015 Projects of the Year, contact APWA Media Relations/Communications Manager, Laura Bynum,, or call 202.218.6736.