Portland Aerial Tram undergoes $300,000 maintenance project
The nearly 10,000 people a day using the Portland Aerial Tram to ride from the South Waterfront to Marquam Hill had just a short break in service this week.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced Friday that the maintenance work which began June 23 was finished three weeks ahead of schedule. The tram returned to regular operations on Monday, July 9, 2018.
Members of the repair team worked 20 hours a day in two shifts, employed innovative repair techniques and benefitted from good weather. This combination of factors led to the scheduled track rope maintenance work being completed in 16 days instead of the originally scheduled five weeks..
A $300,000 maintenance project began June 23 on the tram. Portland Aerial Tram General Manager Ray Gardner said the cost of this project included the projected five-week maintenance, alternate transportation options for the duration of the project and the pre-project planning stage.
Doppelmayr, an Austrian-Swiss company that specializes in tram maintenance internationally worked on the tram's four main stationary track ropes. Doppelmayr USA contracts with Oregon Health and Science University to operate the tram. Crews will alternate the ropes that the cars ride on, carrying passengers between the two stations each day. Each track rope carries about 124,000 pounds of tension. To alternate each rope, crews will shift each rope downhill three feet at a time until 150 feet of the rope has been cycled through.
Brett Dodson, director of Tram, Transportation and Parking at OHSU, said the project must be done every 12 years. At the end of June he said the first of the four track ropes was fully moved and the second was being shifted downward.
"This is the largest scheduled maintenance project we have completed on the tram since the opening in 2007," Dodson said. "Most of our other scheduled maintenance projects have a duration of five to seven days."
"Normally, this sort of project would take eight to 10 weeks, but due to service important in Portland, it has been condensed," Gardner said.
While crews shift the ropes, the tram pods have been placed on the ground and spotters will monitor the crews working over houses, Interstate 5, power lines and streetcars from below. Gardner said Portland technical staff, as well as U.S., Canadian and Swiss Doppelmayr technicians will be working on the project.
In addition to showcasing broad views of the city and Mount Hood on a clear day for tourists, the tram often carries some of the 20,000 employees, patients, students and visitors at OHSU up to the main campus.
With limited two-lane roads as the only way to get up to Marquam Hill, the tram is a vital piece of transportation, especially in moving maneuvering the people visiting Portland's largest employer.
"We have the next 40 years of maintenance scheduled on the tram and work two to three years ahead of the schedule in terms of planning and communications of major maintenance projects," Dodson said.
The two tram cars usually run for about four minutes one way and carry up to 79 passengers in each pod. On average, 450 people bike to the free bike valet at the lower end of the tram near the water.
For the duration of the project, Tram, Transportation and parking services had several alternative transportation options available. "We are activating a fleet of shuttles along with offering bike, walk and public transit options for everyone," Dodson said.
The city owns the tram, but OHSU provided $40 of the $57 million in costs when the tram was constructed in 2007. The university is responsible for operating the tram, while the city is responsible for maintaining the stations and the tower. The fair for each ride by a member of the public — at $4.70 for a roundtrip ticket — is collected by the city and OHSU rides are paid by the university.
All information on alternative transit options, can be found at www.gobytram.com