Warm spring weather may mean longer local commutes


The warm weather could make commutes longer, both within the city of Portland and between Oregon and Washington if drivers take the Interstate Bridge.

The hotter temperatures mean the rivers are running higher than usual and when the rivers rise, so do the bridge lifts to let river traffic get by -- and that means traffic delays.

Higher temperatures are increasing the snow melt in the region, causing the higher than normal river levels.

The Columbia River at the Interstate Bridge is now almost 15 feet. It is expected to reach 17 feet by the end of the week.

On Saturday, the Interstate operated its lift six times. The record for most bridge lifts in one day on the Interstate belongs to 2011 when high water necessitated nine bridge lifts in a single day.

A bridge lift on the Interstate can delay traffic 15 to 20 minutes.

In Portland, the bridges to be concerned about are the Burnside, Hawthorne and Morrison.

The Willamette River is more than 15 feet high and all 3 drawbridges are now staffed 24/7 to deal with the necessity of lifts for river traffic.

Multnomah County operates these drawbridges and spokesman Mike Pullen says there have been more lifts lately and commuters should expect more lifts and traffic delays over the next few weeks because the Willamette is running so high.

Those delays usually last 8 to 10 minutes.

By law, river traffic has the right of way except during the morning and afternoon commutes. There is one exception to that. During Fleet Week, the Coast Guard and Navy ships have the right of way during rush hour.

The first Rose Festival Fleet Week ships arrive in Portland on June 6 and the last one leaves June 11.

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