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Road crews clear I-205 over Glenn Jackson Bridge after temporary closure

In both directions, the Glenn Jackson Bridge has become a chokepoint for traffic since Wednesday's snow storm and overnight freeze due to disabled vehicles.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Well into Thursday afternoon, lingering snow and ice from a record-breaking winter storm continued to snarl traffic throughout the Portland metro area.

The length of I-205 remained a major pain point. The Washington State Department of Transportation said that all southbound lanes of I-205 would be closed near the Glenn Jackson Bridge between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. so road crews could de-ice and plow the highway, but the closure was done by 4 p.m.

"Closing the interstate provides crews a window of time to focus winter weather cleanup efforts unhindered by live traffic," WSDOT said. "Travelers should continue to delay travel and if you must go, be prepared for winter driving conditions and long delays."

During the closure, WDOT said that traffic would be diverted to use State Route 14 to Interstate 5 to cross the Columbia River into Portland.

The Oregon Department of Transportation reported similar issues on I-205 northbound, which the agency said was blocked by numerous stalled vehicles on the Glenn Jackson Bridge.

Other routes were open but moving slowly, the agency added. Westbound I-84 still had a major backup, despite the fact that blocking vehicles from earlier in the day had been removed. More slides and stalls could cause conditions on different routes to change quickly.

"Major delays continue throughout Portland Metro. Avoid travel if possible and if you do, be prepared for winter driving conditions and have supplies in your vehicle for delays," ODOT said.

For people still on the road, ODOT advised them to slow down, give extra room between vehicles, and move over for workers to keep them safe.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation faced criticism that it was inadequately prepared for the snow event that hit Portland on Wednesday. In response to a request for comment, KGW received the following statement from the office of Portland Transportation Commissioner Mingus Mapps:

“Forecasts as late Wednesday morning anticipated just a few inches of snow, then we got hit with a historical amount. PBOT immediately asked employees to extend their day shifts an additional three hours to 6 pm and prepped a second shift to start later in the evening. They deployed snowplows, de-icing vehicles, and other emergency crews across the city.

"PBOT plows are out, and we are focusing on clearing the city’s main arterials and emergency routes. However, many roads are still closed because of abandoned vehicles. I am asking PBOT not to issue fines for abandoned cars, but they are subject to tow and tow fees. I am asking people to help the city out and move their cars out of the roadways if it is safe so that emergency vehicles can get through.”

Visit the following links for the latest on road conditions and closures near you:

A chaotic morning commute

Widespread snow that blanketed much of Oregon and southwest Washington Wednesday night and caused slick road conditions created extreme issues for drivers during their Thursday morning commute.

Drivers on many of the major roadways throughout the Portland metro area were at a standstill for at least several hours Thursday morning.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has been working around the clock to clear the roads with their 55 snowplows. On top of the snow and the ice, PBOT crews have also been dealing with hazards such as abandoned vehicles and downed trees blocking snowplows.

"We are really trying to focus on the busiest streets, the emergency routes that TriMet and police and firefighters and first responders, like ambulances, need," said Dylan Rivera with PBOT.

Rivera noted that, like many commuters, PBOT snowplow drivers have also encountered issues navigating the roads to get to work.

A traffic camera showed a long line of vehicles and semi-trucks stopped on Interstate 5 at Lombard Thursday morning.

A KGW crew came to a standstill in the southbound lanes of I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge from Vancouver to Portland due to a jackknifed semi-truck. Other semi-trucks were seen parked with drivers putting chains on their tires.

A few KGW employees themselves encountered problems on the freeways while trying to get to work. KGW meteorologist Rod Hill was stuck on I-5 south near Rosa Parks early Thursday morning. He reported being at a complete standstill for over two hours.

Missing Sunrise, stuck on I-5 south into Portland near Rosa Parks since 3:00 am. Payback for missing the forecast. Seriously, zero movement for nearly 2 hours and counting.

Posted by KGW Rod Hill on Thursday, February 23, 2023

The major streets aren't the only trouble spots. Neighborhood roads that are less traveled have also become treacherous to travel. A stretch of Southwest Columbia Street was closed Thursday morning due to the road conditions. A TriMet bus appeared to be abandoned after he couldn't make it up the hill.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been working to plow and deice the roads. 

When asked what drivers who are stuck in their vehicles should do, Don Hamilton with ODOT said they should not abandon their vehicles.

"We're going to get to them one by one. We'll do the best we can. If they're still stuck out there on the roads, we're going to get them the help they need as best we can," Hamilton said.

ODOT is urging people to stay home and avoid traveling, if possible, until the road conditions improve.

Snow impacts on TriMet

The winter weather has caused significant impacts to TriMet service. About 18 bus lines have been temporarily suspended and all operating buses are using chains. Buses with chains cannot go faster than 25 mph, so TriMet asks that people bundle up and give themselves extra travel time.

As of 8 a.m. Thursday, all TriMet MAX lines are running, but there are 15-30 minute delays. TriMet said ice is the biggest factor that can impact MAX service.  Trains rain overnight to clear ice from the overhead wires.

TriMet will not turn away anyone traveling to or from a weather shelter who cannot pay fair, now through Saturday morning. People can let bus drivers know that they are heading to or from a warm space.

Click here for the latest TriMet service updates

This is a developing story and it may be updated throughout the day.

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