Our landscape is defined by rivers and the bridges that span them. Whether we think about it or not, we all depend on safe, convenient river crossings for our daily lives and livelihood.
Multnomah County is responsible for six of the Willamette River bridges. In addition to being community landmarks, they are vital to the region’s economy as well as our quality of life. The County has produced a major update to its 20-year Bridges Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to identify and prioritize capital projects required to sustain these important river crossings for all of us.
In recent years, the County has been focused on replacing two of the neediest bridges. The Sauvie Island Bridge to the north of Portland was rebuilt in 2008. The new Sellwood Bridge to the south opened in February 2016. As new structures, their long-term maintenance needs will be less than those of the oldest bridges.
The centerpiece of the CIP is the collection of four downtown Portland bridges: Hawthorne, Broadway,Burnside and Morrison. All four are listed on the National Historic Registry, and the first two are more than a century old. Additionally, they are all mechanically-complex bridges that open for river traffic. These iconic engineering marvels proudly grace Portland’s skyline, but they are also costly to maintain and repair by current standards. They are also highly susceptible to failing in the event of a major earthquake.
The 2015 – 2034 Willamette River Bridges CIP takes a thorough and comprehensive look at the needs of this critical transportation infrastructure. With limited available funding for major bridge upgrades or replacements, there are questions to be answered about which improvements to plan for and prioritize. The CIP addresses those questions.
The draft plan was shared publicly in February, with public comments accepted through February 26. The draft plan was updated with two new projects based on public comments received. The final plan (download the file above) was adopted by the Board of County Commissioners in May, as part of the county's overall Transportation Capital Improvements Plan and Program.
The planning process included public meetings, interviews with stakeholders and public agencies, and a public survey.
Portland Tribune "County wants your comments on 20 year bridge plan" (February 10, 2015)
Portland Tribune Editorial "Aging bridges can no longer be ignored" (March 13, 2014)