Learn more about the new Sellwood Bridge

Original Sellwood Bridge

Type: Fixed Span
Built: 1925
Length: 1971 ft
Width: 28 ft
Lanes: 2
Traffic: 30,000 vehicles/day

The original Sellwood Bridge, built in 1925, was the first fixed-span bridge on the lower Willamette River and a pioneer in area bridge technology. Originally intended to be a local community connector, the Sellwood Bridge became a primary connector for eastside residents headed for I-5 and Washington County, with more than 30,000 vehicles crossing the bridge every day. In 2011, construction of a replacement began, starting with a detour bridge. The new Sellwood Bridge is scheduled to open in early 2016.

The original Sellwood Bridge’s designer was Gustav Lindenthal, renowned late 19th/early 20th century bridge engineer. Lindenthal was New York Commissioner of Bridges, and designer of New York City's Hell’s Gate and Queensboro bridges, and many other bridges. Sellwood is one of four Portland bridges that Lindenthal worked on in the mid-1920s, the last bridge projects in the master engineer's long career. The bridge was constructed by the Gilpin Construction Co. of Portland. Judson Manufacturing Co. fabricated the steel.

The main river span is a 1,092 foot, four-span continuous steel Warren Deck truss. The two 300-foot interior spans and two 246-foot end spans support a six and a half inch thick concrete deck. The original east approach (now mostly demolished) was made up of 16 spans (one steel girder span and 15 concrete spans) for an overall length of 586 feet. The west approach was originally 269 feet long and consisted of one steel girder span and seven continuous concrete girders. Traffic now uses sections of the new bridge approaches on the east and west.

In 1961 an additional concrete girder span was added, making the west approach 294 feet long. Before 1961, the west approach settled and shifted 33 inches towards the river, due to a landslide. New concrete columns had to be added at three locations.

New Sellwood Bridge

Type: Steel Deck Arch
Built: 2013 - 2016
Length: 1976 ft, including main river spans and approaches
Width: 64 ft
Lanes: 2
Traffic: 30,000 vehicles/day

The new Sellwood Bridge will be a steel deck arch structure, with three arches supporting the deck of the main river spans. After an extensive public outreach process, the Board of County Commissioners determined in 2009 that the new bridge would:

  • Be built in its current alignment and widened to the south to allow for continuous traffic flow during construction

  • Be 64 feet wide at its narrowest point with two 12-foot travel lanes, two 12-foot shared use sidewalks, and two 6.5-foot bike lanes/emergency shoulders

  • Include a grade-separated and signalized interchange at the Highway 43/SW Macadam Avenue intersection on the west end

  • Include a pedestrian-activated signal at the intersection of SE Tacoma Street and SE 6th Avenue on the east end

  • Be consistent with Portland’s Tacoma Main Street Plan

  • Restore bus and truck traffic; and accommodate possible future streetcar

After the planning process was complete, including the necessary approvals from state and federal agencies, Multnomah County and its partners sought to reduce the project costs and shrink the overall footprint, particularly at the west end connection with Highway 43. Planners succeeded in trimming the project back and reducing environmental impacts while maintaining multimodal functionality, safety and traffic performance.

Refinements made to the Locally Preferred Alternative, approved by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners in 2011, include:

  • Compressed interchange design that saves money and shifts project away from hillside

  • Reduction in size of the west end rock (cut by 50% - 40 feet high rather than 80 feet high)

  • Alignment revision to accommodate future streetcar at a safer location

  • Bicycle/pedestrian spiral ramps replaced with switchback ramps

  • Less impact to Riverview Cemetery

The Detour Bridge

How do you build a new bridge on the same spot as the old, while still allowing traffic to cross the river there? Easy- you move the old bridge over!

It’s not really that easy, of course, but we did it. In January 2013, the steel truss spans of the old Sellwood Bridge were lifted on jacks and moved. Its east end moved 33 feet north, and its west end moved 66 feet. Then it was connected to its new temporary approaches and re-opened.

Learn more about the detour bridge.

Location map