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Bob R.

The Oregonian has some coverage about the new transit bridge: TriMet and other agencies involved are aiming for a non-drawbridge with a clearance of 75ft, which is the same clearance as the Sellwood Bridge, for example.


My favorite bridge in town is the Steel Bridge - just 2 years older than the Hawthorne. The Steel Bridge provides an interesting compromise due to its telescoping action. For smaller boat traffic, the lower rail and pedestrian portion can open, leaving the MAX, bus, and car traffic above unimpeded. This would not necessarily solve your frustration, though it could give you the option of backtracking and riding over the top if a bridge opening were taking inordinately long. I agree with you about the intimacy of the low-bridge crossing. Especially with the water as high as it is now, I really enjoy riding the lower span of the Steel.


Thanks for the info Brian. I used to get bit by the 9:15am lift quite often when I was living on the east side.

On the extreme end, I would argue that getting too close to the river, ie. a "floating bridge", makes it too intimate and the connection to the river is diminished.


"I'll bet the city planners want a low bridge for ambiance and the transportation people, who are usually concerned with movement over aesthetics, will surely want one tall as can be (and preferably as ugly and cheap as possible)."

As a city planner AND a transportation person (there are several of us), I am offended by that statement.

Yesterday's emergency, 3-hour long opening of the upper deck of the Steel Bridge at 4 PM is a prime example of why we shouldn't be building drawbridges into our transit system.

As tall as can be: necessary

cheap: unfortunately necessary. Why don't you draw up a proposal for an international bridge design competition, and we can see how the FTA likes it?

ugly as possible: ok, now you are just ranting


Sorry about that Grant. Should have been more careful not to offend anyone. Hope we can bridge the gap.

Ice Man

I bike commute across the lower steel bridge span and have had to pause many a time between 7am and 9am for a barge full of gravel coming from Ross Island being pushed by a tug boat. The lower span of the Steel Bridge does not count since it only interrupts bike commuters. If I will usually take advantage of the situation and truck down the Esplanade to the Hawthorne and join the happy but speedy NE bike commuters.


The Broadway Bridge actually takes much longer to open, but you're right about the frequency!

Raymond Brigleb

Great post! Very interesting stuff.


YESSS ! let's have a Portland Architecture Bridge Design Competition !


I work on the Portland Spirit and they don't even need to raise the bridge for the boat to go under. They just use our boat as an excuse to raise the bridge so people don't get too upset. no one ever told me exactly why they needed to raise the bridge, though. Thanks for that tidbit!

Mike Thelin

Three lifts a month for the Broadway? I must have poor timing. I think I've waiting on the Broadway during my last two trips across the Willamette. As for the Hawthorne, sometimes it's best avoided. But if you do have to wait, it affords nice views of South Waterfront and Ross Island.


gondola instead!


Sid, do you mean a "tram." [ducks]


In response to Grant and Brian's exchange: it seems that we could have a high bridge that is attractive as well. I'm reminded of the recent tall bridge that was done by Foster, I believe, and it is good proof that tall does not have to be ugly. Of course, if cheap is a requirement, as Grant says, then maybe we are stuck.

P.S. I enjoy the pedestrian path along the bottom of the steel bridge, down close to the river.

Mike Pullen


I enjoyed your piece on the Hawthorne. The poster who said the Broadway Bridge is the slowest Portland draw bridge to open and close is correct. It has an unusual design that may be rare because it is so slow.


It is time for an upstream to downstream review of the Willamette, particularly from Oregon City to the Broadway Bridge. Overarching authority derives from the Army Corps of Engineers for the river as a navigable waterway. Are the Oregon City locks worth preserving? How tall sailboats need to pass, and to where? What's the future of houseboat communities? Will the river's role change as floating cargo is by far the most energy efficient mode?

The Portland Spirit owner has been a less spirited civic citizen with his opposition to the Springwater trail completion. How many tens (hundreds?) of millions extra do we owe to build a fancy bridge for him to pass under?


Personally, I like the bridge openings--even if they delay me. I'll probably get slammed for saying this, but to me it's a salutary reminder of the fact that we live in a city that is bisected by a river. Once upon a time you'd have been worrying about whether you missed the ferry across, or watching the river rise in the spring and wondering whether it would stop before it got to your shop/office/home...

I've lived on an island, and there are times when weather stops the boats from running and there's nothing you can do about it--you're stuck, on one side or the other. Sure, it's a huge inconvenience, but it also forces you to remember that we still haven't actually conquered nature, and that's not such a bad thing to be reminded of now and then.

Yes, I understand not having time in your day for a 10-minute delay: you have an important meeting, you're picking your kid up from daycare and they charge if you're late, etc. etc. etc. But most of the time, I bet you're just annoyed because your anticipated timetable has been disrupted. Not to get all groovy on you, but why not just stop, look at the river, watch those ancient creaking gears go around... is 10 minutes really going to kill you?

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