Category Archives: Spanning the Bridges

Old bridges on the Clackamas

Bike/Pedestrian bridge over the Clackamas

On my last bike ride through Cross park in Gladstone, I stopped by the old bridges to see how they looked in the fall light, their views opened by the bare trees. The water is running high, clear, and no doubt very cold. Each time I go by I hope there there is some sort of activity, giving a hint that progress is being made in repairing the fire damage to the under-structure of this bridge so that we can ride across and easily access southeast Oregon City. But, there is still no such action.

Abandoned  Southern Pacific Bridge over the Clackamas

This old southern Pacific railroad span sits firm and still just west of the Park place pedestrian bridge. It appears that it is cheaper, and more ecologically sound to let it remain undisturbed, than to remove it. There is no railroad in need of this bridge anymore.

Multnomah County meetings on condition of Willamette River bridges

Multnomah County has scheduled a series of town hall meetings to present information on the condition of its Willamette River bridges and a proposal to fund their repair.
County Chair Ted Wheeler will share information on the county’s 20-year capital shortfall of $490 million for its six bridges across the Willamette. Bridge repair needs range from replacing or repairing the Sellwood Bridge to safety improvements such as replacing the open steel grating on the Morrison Bridge. The Board of County Commissioners is considering referring a measure for the May ballot that would increase the county vehicle registration fee to raise funds for bridge repairs.
Town halls are scheduled for:

• Thursday, January 31, 6 –8 pm, Multnomah County East Building, Sharron Kelley Room, 600 NE 8th St., Gresham

Monday, February 4, 6 – 8 pm, Midland Library, 805 SE 122nd Ave., Portland

• Monday, February 11, 6 – 8 pm, Multnomah Building, Boardroom, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland

• Tuesday, February 19, 6 –8 pm, North Portland Health Clinic, 9000 N. Lombard Blvd., Portland

The meeting format will include a presentation, an opportunity for the public to ask questions and share comments, and time to view displays on the condition and repair needs of the Willamette River bridges.

Multnomah County’s Willamette River bridges include the Broadway, Burnside, Hawthorne, Morrison, Sauvie Island and Sellwood. The bridges range in age from 50 to 98 years. Each day more than 180,000 vehicles cross the bridges, in addition to an estimated 12,000 bicyclists and thousands of pedestrians.

Sellwood Bridge study moving ahead in 2008

We met Maria Rojo de Steffey early in the morning at Portland’s Terminal 2, while watching the Sauvie Island Bridge arch leave the dock and head downriver. Her involvement with that bridge is winding down, but there’s a lot of work to do before construction starts on the Sellwood.
I like that the committee does such a good job of keeping us informed.

Here’s the latest mail I got from Maria:

The Sellwood Bridge project made great progress in 2007. The wide range of possible bridge alignments, cross-sections and interchange types were narrowed down to five complete alternatives that are now being analyzed in the draft Environmental Impact Statement DEIS.

Additionally, six bridge types were selected for further analysis in the DEIS. “Bridge type” refers to a general structural type – exact designs for any new or rehabilitated bridge will be determined after the environmental study is complete. The bridge types selected are of moderate and higher price that also meet the requirements of different alignments, users, and construction plans.

A technical team is now studying the impacts and costs of these alternatives. In late summer 2008, study results will be announced and the public will be invited to help select a locally preferred alternative that includes a single bridge type. Several local governments and the Federal Highway Administration need to approve the preferred alternative. We are confident that by the end of 2008 we will know what type of bridge will be built, where it will be located and how large it will be. Decisions about design details will be made later in the design phase.

I would like to acknowledge the tremendous work of the Sellwood Bridge Community Task Force and Policy Advisory Group, whose members spent many, many hours last year discussing the project, reviewing public input, deliberating various options, and arriving at the recommendations that are being studied today. I would also like to thank you for your time and interest in this project as well. We have been impressed that so many thousands of people have taken the time to share their views with us.

We will continue to send you email updates as the project moves forward this year. I encourage you to continue to stay involved. For the latest project information, visit

Thanks again. Maria Rojo de Steffey

New Sauvie Island bridge arch barged up Willamette

New Sauvie Island Bridge Span at the Terminal 2 dock in early morning

New Sauvie Island Bridge Span in the Willamette river

New Sauvie Island Bridge Span in the island channel approaching the bridge

New Sauvie Island Bridge Span being moved into position

Friday was a fun day. We arrived in the dark a little after 7:00 am to watch the preparations. While we waited we had a nice chat with Multnomah County Commissioner, Maria Rojo de Steffy who discussed some of the issues involving the need for, and construction of, this new bridge. Finally about 8:30, after getting the ok from the insurance, and safety officials, the new arch was pushed out into the channel. They did a quick 90 left turn in order to face down river and then set off at a surprisingly fast pace for such a large and heavy object. We raced up highway 30 in hopes of watching the arch float under the St. Johns bridge, but a traffic accident allowed the arch to beat us to the spot, so we continued on up to Sauvie Island. All the parking in the center of the exit ramp directly off the bridge has been taken over by construction equipment all summer long, but there is parking north of the store so its just a short little walk back up to the dike, for prime bridge installation viewing. It wasn’t more than just a few minutes before the arch arrived, stopping in the middle of the channel to be turned 90 degrees once so that it would be parallel with the bridge. Then it was pushed into a position that will allow all the final prep work can be done prior to final installment. That is expected to take Saturday and Sunday. Don’t get too excited, the bridge doesn’t open until Summer of 2008.

You can usually find some good Sauvie Island stuff at

And, Multnomah County Bridge updates at the Multnomah County site

New Sauvie island Bridge Span waits to be moved.

New Sauvie Island Bridge span

New Sauvie Island Bridge span

New Sauvie Island Bridge span

We stopped by the bridge to see it again today.
It is jacked up about 50 feet on the barge, and it will soon float down the Willamette and then be dropped into place.
Apparently there will be 15 feet of clearance under the Freemont bridge. That should be interesting to see.
I called the number for schedule update (503-988-4884) and the message there said the bridge would be moved on Friday. The Oregonian has originally said Thursday. So we will check again in the morning for current updates.

Thursday, Dec 27th – The barge carrying the arch is set to leave terminal 2 between 7:00 am and 9:00 am Friday December 28th and take about three hours to reach the installation point.

Klineline Bridge on Hwy 99 over Salmon Creek closed

Klineline Bridge linking Highway 99 over Salmon Creek has been closed, and will remain unusable for more than a year while a new bridge is built. Clark County Public Works announced the closure Thursday after engineers concluded that recent high waters damaged the piers enough that the bridge could collapse.

“We can’t rule that out as a possibility,” said Jim Gladson, spokesman for the public works department. One way the bridge could fail would be that the structure shifts, causing the pavement to lift. “The other is the bridge ends up in the creek,” he said.

The bridge will be closed to motorized vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists. Construction on a replacement bridge is scheduled to begin in April and take up to a year. Cost is estimated at $7 million.

The existing bridge was built in 1927, when engineers could not design long spans and so piers were placed in the creek to support the bridge.  In 1949, a pier was undermined and one end of the bridge dropped several feet. In 1956, water eroded the central pier and the middle of the bridge collapsed.

Klineline Bridge Replacement on the Clark County Website

Sharon Wood Wortman speaks at PSU

Sharon Wood Wortman, author of The Portland Bridge Book spoke at Portland State University

You can see her talk at: Center for Transportation Studies Seminars

She gives an interesting talk with some fun stories.
And of course, the usual facts and reviews.

  • 600,000 bridges in US. 5,700 bridges in Oregon
  • Lift types: Vertical – Bascule – Swing Span
  • Bridge types: Suspension – Arch – Beam – Truss – Canteliver
  • Only 160 truss bridges left in Oregon
    (in my opionion, the most interesting ones in Oregon)
  • Only suspension bridge in Willamette Valley is the St. Johns.

She says there is a Bridge Museum at ODOT?
We will have to check that out.

You can see her site at Bridge Stories.

Burnside Bridge still not ready for car traffic.

In an earlier post, I talked about the Burnside Bridge, and at that time, the bridge was set to open soon after an unexpected delay. Nowburnsiderepair1.jpg it looks like the opening has been postponed again. Last week they were struggling with issues surrounded around that 3.8 million pound counterweight. They had some big holes openedburnsiderepair2×1.jpg up in the deck earlier in the week. Now, they expect to have one lane open in each direction on October 21. The 81 year old bridge is in the middle of a 2 year rehabilitation project, and this stage is the most technically challenging.

10-02-07 New Sellwood Bridge Alternatives Selected

Last week the Sellwood Project Advisory Group met to select the final group of alternatives for further study and review.

Sellwood Bridge Alternatives under Study, in a .pdf file

1.) The 57 foot wide rehabilitation project does nothing for improving automobile/transit traffic, but seems to help bike/pedestrians. Thanks, but, no thanks.

2.) The two decked system is intriguing, while providing a little cover for walkers, the design would create a dreary, dirty and dangerous section, that would loose its appeal to many, and, the “possibility for striping 3 lanes” means while its possible to have 3 lanes, it will be tight, and will not adequately handle the future growth pressure that this new bridge will experience.

3.) The 64 foot wide bridge provides great bike/pedestrian access with its 6.5 foot bike lanes and 12 foot shared use lanes, it is still only providing 2 lanes of traffic. My money is on this selection if only because it isn’t the most expensive one, but it is the most expensive one we can afford. And for some reason so many people are under the mistaken impression that if we limit the bridge to 2 lanes, less people will want to cross it than if there are 3-4 lanes. The demand will be there, and the need to cross the river will not change dependent on the number of lanes. We must consider accommodating growth, not diverting it.

4.) In this case, bigger is better. Two auto lanes, two transit lanes, a 16 foot shared use, and 8 foot pedestrian walkway. This one seems to have it all.

We will have the opportunity to create this just once in our lifetime. Let’s hope we make the choice that will last our lifetime.

Burnside Bridge to reopen late next week

The Burnside Bridge is expected to reopen to motor vehicles late next week. The bridge will not be ready to reopen on Monday, October 8 as originally planned. The target date for reopening is four or five days after October 8.
Replacing the counterweight hinge assembly is the most technically challenging repair in the two-year project. The repairs have taken longer than expected because the old parts were more difficult to remove than anticipated. Despite using different methods, the contractor was unable to remove parts of the hinge by pushing or pulling. Instead, the 13-inch diameter steel pins had to be slowly drilled out. After that initial delay, the 3.8 million pound counterweight was successfully lowered with a jacking system so that other parts could be removed and replaced.
Several night-time bridge closures will be needed to remove the jacking system after the bridge reopens to traffic. The current schedule calls for the bridge to be closed at night on October 12 and 13, but those dates are subject to change. The bridge is closed to motor vehicles. Pedestrians and bicyclists are able to cross the bridge during most of the repair, but occasionally the bridge will be closed to ALL traffic for delicate operations and safety issues; and river traffic is not affected.

So, Sunday you can bike on both the Sellwood and the Burnside, without cars!

Sellwood Bridge Closed for Inspection Sun. Oct. 7

The Sellwood Bridge will be closed to all motor vehicles on Sunday, October 7 from 7:00 am until as late as 7:00 pm during a structural inspection. Both traffic lanes need to be closed in order to station equipment used in the inspection.
Like all publicly owned bridges, the Sellwood Bridge gets a federally mandated structural inspection every two years. The biennial inspection began last month but could not be completed during a one-day bridge closure. Multnomah County also inspects sections of the bridge where problems have been identified every three months.
On Sunday the bridge sidewalk will remain open for bicyclists and pedestrians, although there may be short, intermittent delays for sidewalk users. For motor vehicles, the nearest alternate river crossing to the north is the Ross Island Bridge. Access to the Ross Island Bridge is available via US 43/SW Macadam Ave. on the west side and via SE Milwaukie Ave. and SE Powell Blvd. on the east side. The nearest bridges to the south are the Abernethy Bridge (I-205) and the Oregon City Bridge.

For other recent
Bridge News from Multnomah County’s Newsroom

For other Portland traffic updates
Traffic look ahead for next week from PortlandOnline.