What is a lifeline route?
A lifeline route is a route that allows emergency services to respond after a major earthquake or other disaster. Afterwards, it remains open to support survival and recovery.
A lifeline route will maintain access to fire stations, hospitals and other emergency services right after a quake. This will allow first responders to get where they’re needed. After that, it will allow for food, water, medical supplies and other necessities to be brought in. It will also allow people to be evacuated to unaffected areas.
In the longer term, a lifeline route will support rebuilding by allowing movement of people and freight to where they are needed.
What makes the Burnside a lifeline route?
Metro declared all of Burnside Street a regional lifeline route in 1996, including the Burnside Bridge. Burnside Street (sometimes Burnside Road) runs almost 19 miles, from the Washington County line in the west to Mount Hood Highway (US 26) in the east.
Burnside Street was chosen because it had the fewest risks of having overpasses collapse on it during an earthquake.
The machinery that opens the Burnside is simpler and better protected than other moveable Willamette River bridges. There are also no connections to I-5. The Morrison Bridge is similar to the Burnside in how it works, but is in danger of its I-5 ramps collapsing on top of it in a quake.
What are we doing to keep the lifeline route open?
Multnomah County has installed seismic restraints to keep some Burnside Bridge sections from coming apart in an earthquake. Starting in 2017, we will be studying more ways to make the bridge safer in a major quake. The Seismic Feasibility Study will last two to three years. When it’s done, it will make recommendations to improve the bridge or replace it.