Last year one of the most iconic bridges in Portland celebrated its 100th birthday. The Steel Bridge opened in the year 1912 to carry horse-drawn vehicles, trucks, and trains across the Willamette. This attraction is still a feature that is best-known of this waterfront, and the model for multi-modal transportation.
100 years ago, residents in Portland were in awe when engineers Harrington and Waddell unveiled this magnificent creation. These engineers built this bridge for the Union Pacific Railroad, in their attempts to find a new way for a bridge to lift to allow boats to pass beneath. Sharon Wood Wortman, a bridge historian, stated that there are other vertical-lift double-deck bridges which feature bottom decks which lift, that telescope inside of the top deck. The Steel Bridge is the sole bridge across the globe where the two decks on the bridge go up together around 50 feet in such as short time. To date, there are no other bridges that can do that.
The Steel Bridge is in no way a type of “glamour puss” such as the graceful and elegant St John’s Bridge, or like the Fremont which is described as a muscular-workhorse. In fact, this bridge is short, and bordering on stubby, at just 211 feet in length. Also, the lower deck hangs only 26-feet above the water and is always at a risk when major floods occur. You need to keep in mind this bridge still performs works that other bridges fail to.
This bridge carries freight trains, the MAX, buses, bicycles and of course people. In fact, this bridge carries a significant amount of people. On a clear and sunny day, it is easy to see around 772 bus trips, 23,000 trucks, and cars, 482 MAX light rails along with a couple of passenger and freight trains that share this bridge along with several-hundred pedestrians.
Even though the majority of this steel superstructure has remained intact, the Portland Steel Bridge has undergone a few renovations. In the year 1943, all the cables on 4 of the lower decks and the upper deck were replaced. In the year 1947, the remaining four sheaves went onto be replaced. From 1949 to 1952, both the west and the east approaches went under renovations. In the year 1950 the original approach and the west side went onto be connected to the NW Front Avenue, Harbor Drive and Everett Street, In the year 1951, the approaches completed to the east-side of Williams Avenue, Holladay Street, and Oregon Street. In 1984, the State Bridge Section and Oregon State Highway Division conducted a few major renovations on the bridge, and the Tri-Met went onto add Light Rail into the mix.
In more recent years the continuous increase in the use of the pedestrian facilities such as the West Bank Waterfront Park and East Bank Esplanade resulted in a need for lower-level bicycle and pedestrian crossing. In 2001, the Steel Bridge Riverwalk was opened up to visitors and the public. This project cost in the region of $2,600,000 and greatly decreased trespassing incidents over the railroad-tracks.
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