PDX gets loud this spring! Here’s how we’re muffling the noise.

Published March 28, 2022

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Slide the arrow back and forth to see the Oregon Market before the demolition work began (left photo) as well as its current state (right photo).

Sometimes, you gotta break things. Tear it down to rebuild it. Make a little noise.

This spring, we're excited to reach a new phase in the PDX Next project: preparing the main terminal so we can slide the new roof over top. That said, it might get a little loud.

Last year, you may remember, the airport erected temporary walls behind the ticketing counters and closed off the Oregon Market. We also installed bypasses to get from the security areas to Concourses C and D. What you haven't seen is that, in those blocked-off zones, construction crews have been stripping the top two floors down to steel columns and concrete slabs.

Now it's time to demolish the remaining 150,000 square feet of structures. If you're traveling through the airport or working at PDX from early April through June, you may hear or even feel the construction, particularly in the ticketing and security areas.

When the new main terminal opens in 2024, the Oregon Market is getting a glow-up, too.

Here are five steps we're taking to lessen the noise:

1. Helping passengers block out the sound. You’ll find dispensers for earplugs in both the north and south ticket lobbies, just before the TSA checkpoints. The plugs are free for anyone passing through the airport to use. If you or someone you’re traveling with has different sensory needs, such as autism or dementia, stop by the Travel Oregon Welcome Center—located pre-security in the baggage claim area—for a free sensory kit. Each kit contains noise-cancelling headphones, a fidget device, an emotional thermometer, and a Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard. After passing through security, you can also make your way to the Sensory Room in Concourse D, which is designed specifically for folks with sensory needs.

2. Building extra walls. Instead of exposing the interior of the airport to the elements, we've built "weather walls" between the terminal and the construction. Those 6-inch-thick, weatherproof walls also provide sound insulation — and in certain spots, we're adding two extra inches of drywall to dampen the noise even further.

3. Following the demolition plan. In order to minimize disruption in the airport, a team of engineers have developed a careful demolition plan, and the construction crews will move from the roof down and from the west wall inward. This will help reduce noise, too. "As the structures open up," Hoffman Skanska JV project manager Patrick Bifone explains, "the sound will have a place to escape instead of bouncing around and echoing."

4. Muffling the sound. The construction crews will use thick sound blankets to absorb vibration and noise. Sometimes they'll hang the blankets around a zone like a screen. Other times the crews will wrap the blanket around a piece they're cutting into. In addition, Hoffman Skanska will set fat Styrofoam pads underneath the concrete they are breaking up to catch any rubble that falls—and dampen the sound.

5. Monitoring the noise level. Jen Reynolds, Construction Impacts Coordinator for PDX, says, "We will monitor noise levels, and our commitment is that we're always within compliance levels set by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health)." Most of the demolition work will take place on weekdays. If a specific task produces intense noise and vibration, Hoffman Skanska may only work on it for a few hours at a time, or have nighttime crews complete the work when the airport is less crowded.

Jen adds that the farther you move down the concourses toward your gate, the quieter it will get. Stop in one of the concourse concessions for a bite and a drink — or watch a short film at the Hollywood Theatre on Concourse C — and you may never notice the construction taking place several hundred yards away.