« Fixing and preventing defective buildings: a conversation with Western Architectural's Eric Hoff | Main | Energy and values: PGE's Boardman brinksmanship [updated] »


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

Bob R.

"and we want to keep allowing only one car in each direction? What century is this?"

This is the century in which we recognize factors such as Induced Demand, Peak Oil, and transportation's contributions to global-warming emissions.

This is a century in which we listen to a local community with distinct identity which is already facing issues with high volumes of out-of-area commuters coming through, and doesn't wish to experience greater impacts from additional commuter traffic.

This is a century in which we realize that a widening of the Sellwood bridge, and the traffic that would bring, would require a very expensive and disruptive widening of Highway 43, which I'm sure the residents and businesses in Johns Landing would like to have some say about.

This is a century in which we recognize that Land Use planning must go hand-in-hand with Transportation planning.

Thanks for asking! :-)


Couldn't agree more with Bob R., well said!

Brian Libby

Okay, okay. I see your point, Bob, MP and others feeling the same way. Normally I'd like to think I'm on the green/sustainable side of any argument like this. I don't want sprawl and cars to dictate things AT ALL. I'm definitely in favor of progressive land use planning. I just didn't think two lanes in each direction for a US highway or a key bridge in a major city was being that unreasonable.


Being a regular user of the Sellwood Bridge, it seems to me like it functions quite nicely the way it is...except, of course, for the could-crash-down-killing-a-bunch-of-people thing. Sure, there are some bottleneck issues occasionally, but I'd hate to see a really big bridge into Sellwood. The only thing I'd add would be tracks and good bike lanes and sidewalks.


Looking at the sketch I wonder if it is just repeating the typical current street layout , and is missing a great opportunity to be more. How about broad strolling sidewalks with benches , tables , and shade trees ? The view is great , why not celebrate it!


One interesting fact I learned on a recent bike realted information tour to Amsterdam was that the Dutch will build new arterials in the Amsterdam region with only one motor vehicle lane in each direction. They believe, based on their studies and experience, that one lane is actually more efficient in high volume conditions because it forces drivers to move at a more consistent speed and with more direct behavior. It eliminates all the lane changing and jostling that two lanes induces. It forces a certian level of pressure on each driver to focus and to maintain proper distance and speed. Of course they augment reduced "capacity" with rail and bike lanes.

By restsicting the new Sellwood Bridge to two lanes, but adding bike lanes and a provision for future street car, we are following the lead of one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to transportation planning.

My concern for this bridge is aesthetic.

The current drawings shown above ( one of many options ) give me concern that the bridge will be "enhanced" with the sort of victorian foppery common to modern design. Do we really need the protruding bulbous sidewalks at the pier points of the bridge? What purpose do they serve other than to complicate the structure and add cost?

The Vista Viaduct demonstrates that benches and viewing points can be integrated into the design without destroying the general integrity of the structure.

If room is needed for viewing, would it not just be easier to add a foot or two to the width of the sidewalks? Is there not a way to better integrate rest stops?

This bridge absolutely must be a great addtion to Oregon's bridge design tradtion and collection. We cannot build another bridge like the new Sauvie Island Bridge which has such an unfortunate but well intentioned image driven mash-up of structural components, materials and poorly exectued details.

Greg Moore

As a former daily-commuter over the Sellwood bridge, I for one don't see an immediate need to widen it to more lanes. It handles traffic nicely now. I like what Potestio pointed out regarding how the Dutch approach their roadways. It's an interesting argument and case study. This isn't a major arterial and I think the folks who live, visit and drive through would prefer it to stay that way. Aren't we building a new transit bridge in downtown to enable better public transportation connectivity between east and west?

The sketch that Brian posted from Rabines looks great! I think it celebrates the existing bridge's character that has long been an easy association with the Sellwood neighborhood. Remember that a bridge is ultimately a utility to get cars, streetcars, people, communications lines, natural gas (?) and electricity (?) across the river.

If we can make it look attractive and serve all the needs without overrunning budgets, great. But, let's cut the whining about how we're "missing opportunities" for "something better." Every designer thinks they can do better.

One pratical point: Benches and wide sidewalks aren't ideal on a bridge. They'll simply attract vagrants and vandalism. I doubt this is what Sellwood residents would like to attract to their neighborhood. I really like the idea of safe bike lanes and an eventual streetcar.

Oh - Bob R.'s answer to the question of "what century are we living in" is quite entertaining and true. It seems like it's more of a coincidence that the Sellwood Bridge is not being expanded like other arterial roads. I suspect the factors keeping the bridge small have more to do with the neighborhood, current traffic volume and budget. You can bet that if there was a master plan to make the Sellwood bridge a major duct in the road system, it would just happen without anyone having any real say in the matter.

Mike Pullen

Here's a little background on the two lane cross section for the new bridge.

Traffic studies showed that a four lane bridge would not improve congestion, due to the two-lane layout of Tacoma St. and the traffic signals on that street. Brian is correct that more than two lanes are needed at the west end of the bridge, where traffic turns north to Portland or south to Lake Oswego. The bridge will have four lanes at the west end to increase the flow of traffic through a signalized intersection there. The signal will be adjusted to give more green time for traffic in the dominant direction, depending on the time of day.

The best improvement in congestion will likely be for Portland to Lake Oswego traffic, which will pass under the new bridge. That traffic should be able to avoid the afternoon congestion at the bridge.


Thanks to Mike for clarification on the lane issues. Adding capicity is best accomplished by using more efficient modes, like bus, streetcar or bikes, or even using smaller cars. Slower speeds also allow for tighter distances between cars and are safer for all.

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