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While I agree that the process is fundamentally flawed, in your cake analogy I would think it best to know first what volume of cake you need to bake to serve all the guests (number of lanes) before you decide upon the stuctural form that cake should take.

For any kind of momentum to build, much less for it to be a successful project, one State needs to take the lead. The other must then be brought along and buy-in to the proposals (as they'll have a major financial stake).

Clearly a major rethink is in order. And pehaps if a signature bridge cannot be created due to the constraints of the airport, a tunnel would be a better technical solution for the crossing where the civil works surrounding the portals could serve as the monument/gateway between the States.


I say this as someone who deeply cares about design, but I couldn't care less what it looks like. The whole assumption that it should exist at all is deeply flawed.


I agree with Andrew and Maccoinnich.

Brian Libby

Hey guys, thanks for your comments.

I should have made this clearer in the post, but I agree that it may be better not to build the thing at all at this point. I'd rather keep the Interstate Bridge and fix the Delta Park and Rose Quarter interchanges, particularly if the bridge is an expensive ugly boondoggle.


This bridge will need to be crossed at some point, but maybe it can wait a few years.
I think that it is rediculous how much money has been spent already for just a big political mess.
I think that a bridge should make a design statement if and when it is built.


Oh, I forgot to mention that they have spent somewhere near $70-$100 mil of public funds for this cluster bump. Crazy.


I also agree no bridge at all is prudent at this point in time. The "process" has ruined it. I can't believe this process has cost at least $70MM with nothing to show for it. Same with the Memorial Coliseum. We're really not doing our region and taxpayers any favors with this "process".


I do support a new bridge though without damage to Jantzen Beach, Pearson Airfield and, if possible, existing downstream bottlenecks. The sooner Light Rail comes to Vancouver, the better.

I question the statement that Portland and Vancouver have "dramatically different values." I would say that they have different "needs" but share a love of the region and the desire to control congestion and air quality.

On a regional basis, however, we need to address the fact that the I-5 drawbridge is a stoplight and NOT a place you would want to be during an earthquake, particularly under the overhead weights.

PLEASE can we get the project built with a decent price, Light Rail, an aesthetically pleasing design and stop all the north/south bickering?

Rick Potestio

I encourage everyone to come to the pdXplore events next week and make your voices heard.

This is a very critical moment, and the project is of a region defining scale and importance.

I believe that the bridge design is just a small portion of the issues that need to be addressed with regard to transportation and land use in the metropolitan area.

Focusing on the bridge design is great-- but also a great way to miss the larger context and more significant concerns that need to be addressed.

Yes, the current design is absolutely ugly. Yes, we should have a world class design.

But rather than be distracted by the bridge itself, we all need to understand the implications of this project as it will be the single most important transporation investment this region will make for the forseeable future.

Finally, compare this to the billions planned for transportation projects in the Seattle area... and consider this cost in relationship to California's high speed rail project...

Maybe the time has come for the NW (Oregon and Washington) to start thinking like a region... for activists in Portland and Seattle to get together, and to open a broader debate.

Why not take these billions and build a high speed rail line between Eugene and Vancouver BC now?????

Why not use these billions to build feeder rail lines looping the Willamette Valley as Lawrence Halprin called for 40 years ago?

Why not do the same for the Puget Sound area?

And connect both systems to the coast?

Because everyone remains so focused on the local (the CRC or the Alaska Viaduct - Tunnel), we never address the big picture.

Rick Potestio


Great Post B , I agree completely!
I believe we can make a definative statement of our values as a society by creating a Park-Roof on the basic bridge. The Park-Roof will pay for itself by replacing the expensive stormwater treatment system. It will provide needed green space for the adjacent underserved neighborhoods , make an impact on the Carbon Footprint , and create a world-class park that will draw visitors from around the world.
Please visit the blog below to see my Artworks of the Design.



I think it is hilarious (read: infuriating) that the same people who are staunch "just the basics" bridge people, are the same that want the biggest, fattest, conveyances for moving cars. only cars. Funded mainly by the federal government, but keep national government out of states and don't give me health insurance. Make sure it is 100% toll free to drive over. oh, and lower my taxes.

It is clear that most of the citizenry of both states are too ignorant to know what it best for them and need one strong leader on this project to give them what is best in the long run. Someone who will speak up and hire a designer, perhaps not a starchitect, but still someone who can create something to be proud of. Though I fear, no matter how stunning the design, there are those who will be happy with nothing less than mediocre in the name of thrift.

Just think, if given the opportunity to do the St. John's Bridge today, would anyone support the design as it stands, or would they opt for a cheap box-beam girder design instead?

This whole "design by committee" approach is ridiculous, and emphasizes process over product with the end result being an over-priced turd.


... and thank you for continuous coverage of this. Great article Brian!


This bridge should be large, multimodal, and a beautiful landmark for the region.

Unfortunately the process is being torpedoed by libertarians who don't want a dime to spent on it and liberals who don't want to make it easier for people to travel long distances in cars.

Peter Ovington

Brian: You mentioned the Delta Park bottleneck on I-5 a couple of times. Note that fixing that bottleneck has been underway for the last year and ODOT will be finished widening the pinchpoint next year.

The Rose Quarter congestion is another matter.


There is no agreement on the program for the bridge by its clients: 2 legislatures, 2 state DOTS, two cities, Metro, innumerable advisory committees and Congress.

There is a fundamental disagreement over light rail and tolls which are each major budget factors.

Without an agreed upon program and budget, every design effort is doomed, and resolving those is beyond the capability of any architect.

The congressional delegations are moving ahead. In the future, both state's committee assignments may not be as advantageous and the concept of earmarks may be under increasing pressure.

(My own preferences are to develop Pierson with 4-5 story mixed use, including a UW branch campus, connected to light rail, tear down Hooters, build out the port on West Hayden, convert the Hayden Red Lion to condos and design a bridge that isn't home to seagulls polluting the river. The interface with Hayden seems unnecessarily complex and I'm not sure Vancouver needs to rebuild every interchange, but I'm not a highway engineer!)


Good luck striving for a world class design. Oregon in particular does not have enough of a population (tax base) to fund large projects properly.

Add to that, a sizable anti tax lobby and a significant Portland population that is completely ignorant of the seismic issues of the existing bridge and you will get mediocre design.

Ray Whitford

I went to four CRC meeting early on (2006,2007) and asked for an iconic design and was told "no". Pearson Airpark was too important. There would be no suspension bridge (even to close to PDX I was told). The DOT's didn't like the idea of including the capacity for HSR either.

The CRC is a waste and the process was destined to create the design we have in front of us. Don't build it. Spend the money on the 405 Loop (tunnels please). And in ten years start a new process to send I-205 West and South to meet US26 and get a LRT Bridge to WA at I5 or at I205. Make the Vancouver to Hillsboro Bypass a Toll Road with limited access (5 miles between interchanges). Make this Toll Road and its Bridge the iconic entrance into our part of Cascadia. And make sure it has the capacity for rail (LRT and Commuter Rail) and bikes/walkers.

Down the road work on local access bridges as needed (Hayden Island, Troutdale, NE 33rd Ave area).

Maybe in twenty years Pearson Airpark can to turned into a historic site and we can reconnect East and West Vancouver by having a elevated bridge that works for cars/people and land use in Washington state.


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