Portland: Bridge City

Portland has a few nicknames: Rose City and Bridge City seem to be the most widely used. The bridges in Portland drew me in immediately. Bridges are fascinating to me in general – I am mesmerized by drawbridges in particular. Then I found out that I could walk across most of the Portland bridges…

Fremont and Broadway Bridges - from City Grille Restaurant
Fremont and Broadway Bridges – from City Grille Restaurant

Downtown Portland has 7 bridges:  Fremont, Broadway, Steel, Burnside, Morrison, Hawthorne, and Marquam.     All bridges allow pedestrian traffic except the Fremont (I-405) and the Marquam (I-5)  which are part of  major interstate highways.

The Fremont Bridge has a large arch that is very visible in photos of downtown Portland.  It is the second largest tied-arch bridge.   It is the northern-most of the 7 bridges.   It was completed in 1973 and is the newest of the bridges.

Crossing the Broadway Bridge
Crossing the Broadway Bridge

The Broadway Bridge is very visible in photos of Portland due to its red coloring.  The Broadway Bridge is a double-leaf Bascule (drawbridge) design with the huge counterweights located above the bridge.

The Steel Bridge from the pedestrian walkway
The Steel Bridge from the pedestrian walkway

The  unique design of the Steel Bridge makes it also very identifiable in photos of Portland.  This is clearly my favorite bridge in Portland.   It is a double-deck, vertical-lift bridge where the decks can move independently:  either the lower deck can be lifted or both the lower deck and upper deck can be raised.  Unfortunately, we did not get to see the bridge lift.   We walked across the upper deck on Saturday and across the lower deck on Sunday.  The center lanes of the upper deck are dedicated to the  Max Train line,  one outer lane each way for buses and cars, and sidewalks for pedestrians and bikes.  The traffic lanes are separated from the sidewalks by a railing but the lanes are quite narrow – you literally feel the wind of the buses as they pass closely by you while you are walking.  Many (if not all) bus routes use the Steel Bridge.   The lower deck is restricted to train and pedestrian traffic.   This bridge is a favorite for bikers and joggers.  As you walk across the lower bridge, you can see and hear all the traffic above you – as the bridge is made of steel grates.

On Sunday, we took the Max Red Line train back from the airport and got off the train on the east side of the river just before the train crosses the Steel Bridge.   We then walked north to cross the Broadway Bridge.   Then we followed the pedestrian walkway along the west side of the river south to the Burnside Bridge and walked across it.

Burnside Bridge - with view of downtown and the Portland Oregon sign
Burnside Bridge – with view of downtown and the Portland Oregon sign

The Burnside Bridge is also a Bascule bridge – with the counterweights in the towers on either side of the drawbridge section.

Portland Saturday Market
Portland Saturday Market

On the east side of the bridge is the Saturday Market – which was very vibrant and had some unique vendors and good snacks.  There is a stairway from the bridge down to the market which is under the bridge and spreads out into the streets of Portland.     After spending time at the market, we took the Red Line back to our connecting bus and home to a bottle (or two) of Pinot Grigio.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *