« MulvannyG2 imagines a shopping mall of the future | Main | Matthew Ginn's Portland Public Schools photo tour: Roosevelt and Wilson »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


In your research, did you see anything about traffic levels on bridges decreasing due to less people communting for work during the recession?

Joel T

Hawthorne is a busy road and bridge in itself. As is Ross Island Bridge, which used to have streetcar tracks back in the day.
The new bridge is in the right position for routing a SE MAX line down Division or Powell in the future.


One of the more interesting things I have observed in the past few years, first on 5th/6th and now on N Broadway and the bridge, is the uncovering and removing of old streetcar tracks to make way for new tracks, in pretty much the exact same locaiton.

Regarding the Hawthorne: I think the frequency of bridge lifts precludes MAX service. The resultant delays would affect they entire system. Contrast that with the upper deck of the Steel Bridge, which hardly ever lifts.

Alexander Craghead

The new bridge is a good addition, and will greatly contribute to establishing reliable MAX service to Milwaukie.

That said, the idea of using the Hawthorne is not an entirely bad one. It was considered early on, but eliminated. I have heard conflicting reasons for this elemination and have not yet dug into the official planning documents to confirm any of them. A few that seem likely to be true, however, are the issue of brisge lifts that another commenter mentioned and an issue around the weight rating of the bridge.

There is, however, a political angle as well. The new bridge also helps out Portland Streetcar. It's being packaged as a bike/ped facility. It links the OMSI area to the OHSU SoWa campus. Each of these decisions have strong political support from active special interests. Using the Hawthrone will by-and-large scrap the benefits to these groups, and because of that I strongly suspect that removing the new bridge from the Orange Line and using the Hawthorne is likely a non-starter.

But who knows? The rules are entirely different now, and TriMet does need to save money and make cuts to the project. Removing the new bridge would more than cover the shortfall of Federal funding that the FTA anounced this week. At this point, in this economy, things that were once unthinkable are now possible.


I am reading James Howard Kunstler's "The Geography of Nowhere" (1994) for the first time and ran into this gem of PDX streetcar history I wasn't aware of:

"In 1932, General Motors formed the United Cities Mobile Transit (UCMT) corporation to create a market for its products by taking over streetcar lines in small cities, and converting the lines to buses. UCMT was dissolved in 1935 after the American Transit Association censured it for trying to dismantle Portland, Oregon's, electric trolley lines. But this didn't stop General Motors."

Fred Leeson

Another problem with the Hawthorne is that is highly vulnerable to earthquakes. It likely would be the first to topple. Once those heavy concrete counterweights start to sway, the bridge's flimsy steel frame will offer little resistance. We're better off with something designed with earthquakes in mind. (I did a newsppaer article about this some years ago....and think about it everytime I walk, drive or bicycle across that bridge.)


The new bridge to support rail transit south of downtown could be packaged as either (a) a replacement of the Marquam Bridge, or (b) a twin bridge directly alongside the Ross Island for MAX and pedestrians and bikes, with the streetcar using the Hawthorne.

If the project were a Marquam Bridge replacement, it could be part of a redesign of the Eastbank freeway and vastly improve the relationship between downtown and the east side, while providing a new icon for the city.

If it were to be a twin to the Ross Island, it would make the OHSU tram regionally accessible via MAX, and provide a more direct light rail alignment to Milwaukie/southeast suburbs. OMSI would be accessible not via MAX but via the streetcar, which could travel over the Hawthorne.

The south reach of the river would remain more open, with the current spacing between bridges preserved.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Lead Sponsors


Portland Architecture on Facebook

More writing from Brian Libby


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad

Paperblogs Network

Google Analytics

  • Google Analytics

Awards & Honors