Published March 28, 2022
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.
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.
Here's what this year will look like for PDX (and you!)
For the past year, we've built a nine-acre roof on a prefabrication lot to the northwest of the airport. The construction crews are now installing the last component—an intricate wood lattice, sourced from sustainable Northwest forests, that will eventually cover the interior ceiling.
What you'll see: If you drive along Marine Boulevard, you can glimpse the roof's dramatic swoops in the prefab lot.
Behind all those partitions in the pre-security area, construction crews have been hollowing out the back half of the main terminal. Starting in March, the exterior structure is also coming down to create a more open, spacious footprint. It may get noisy for a few months!
What you'll see: Not much, in fact. But when you’re in the ticket lobby and going through security, you may hear and feel what’s happening on the other side of those partitions. We're strategizing ways to counteract the sound, including free earplugs at the front doors and a sensory room in Concourse D.
Next, we’re erecting 34 giant steel Y-shaped columns to hold up the roof. Right now, construction crews are driving steel pilings deep into the ground to anchor these columns. Over the course of a few months, we’ll erect the Y columns one by one.
What you'll see: You probably won't notice—most are going up overnight behind the temporary walls. Late-night travelers will occasionally have to walk a few yards around an installation site.
Once the biggest section of the wood roof is fully assembled, the project team will break it back down into 20 "cassettes". During the summer and fall, Hoffman-Skanska and Mammoet will maneuver each cassette into place over the existing roof. It will take several days to place each cassette, and the work will happen overnight — depending on the section we’re placing, we may guide late-night travelers around a short detour.
What you'll see: Unless you're flying into PDX on a late-night flight, or camped out on Marine Drive at 2 a.m., you won't see much. If you walk to the ends of Concourse C or Concourse D and look back toward the main terminal, you'll catch a glimpse of the airport's new roofline.
In addition to the big projects, you’ll see a host of new amenities appear throughout the airport. A new play area in Concourse E. New art. New restaurants and cafes. (Lardo! Screen Door! Good Coffee!) You're almost guaranteed to encounter something new every time you visit the airport — and we're not talking barricades.