The last couple of days saw the arrival of the Naval Fleet for Fleet Week. It happens every year as part of the Rose Festival in Portland, and it requires bridge lifts to allow the ships to proceed down the Willamette River. And yes, this means delays in travel times on the trains – being on the wrong side of the Steel Bridge when a lift of the upper deck is required puts trains way behind schedule and makes for some packed trains for passengers.
When only the lower deck of the Steel Bridge needs to be raised (detailed diagram of the decks and lifting mechanism… Wikipedia, what can’t you do?), MAX service can continue as normal on the upper deck. It’s when the upper deck also needs to be raised that trains will either be held at platforms to wait for the bridge to go back down, or alternatively turned back the way they came.
Maritime traffic takes priority over rail traffic, which is why MAX service can and will be interrupted for long periods of time whenever the Steel Bridge needs to be lifted (not just for Fleet Week, but whenever a ship or boat that needs the upper deck to be raised is passing through). If a train is already in one of the bridge circuits when the bridge tender begins to prepare for a lift, the bridge cannot be lifted. That train has to proceed without delay off of the bridge (out of the circuit) so that the bridge span can be lifted. Trains will be held on red signals at all locations leading to the bridge for the duration of the lift.
The arrival and departure of the fleet make for some difficult days for commuting (and here’s your advanced notice – when the ships leave in the beginning of next week, it’s going to happen again, so expect delays either sitting on the train or taking a shuttle bus). If you’re waiting to board a crowded train, please let the people who are trying to exit the train do so – there will be more room for you to board train once they’re gone. If there’s no room for you on that train, the one advantage you have in a bridge lift is that trains will be stacked up only minutes apart once they can cross the bridge, so you will soon be able to board one and continue on your way.
In the meantime, please be patient with the delays… enjoy the beautiful weather, and consider going down to the waterfront and checking out the fleet while they’re in town. It’s a neat opportunity for the general public to see these ships up close and talk with the men and women who are serving on them.
We will soon be returning to your regularly scheduled commute.