Tour de Lab September 1st

The old Sellwood Bridge closes for good tonight: Will you miss it?

Posted by on February 25th, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Sellwood Bridge from a car-1

The view of the Sellwood Bridge sidewalk from inside a car.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Tonight at 7:00 pm the old Sellwood Bridge will close for good. Then for an hour between 7:30 and 8:30 pm Multnomah County will give you one last chance to say goodbye. The question is: Will you shed tears of joy or sorrow?

Five years ago the County broke ground on a project to replace the bridge and they’re mere days away from opening the new one. But before that big celebration happens, tonight is a chance for a final farewell. And for many people it might be their first time to actually stop and appreciate the views from the bridge. That’s because people who cross it on foot or by bike have always been forced to share one narrow sidewalk that’s just a few feet wide. It was annoying and dangerous.

Here are a few photos from our archives…

BTA New Year's Day Ride-17

New Year’s Day morning in 2010 — a rare time when you could take the lane without any stress.
Ride Along with McLeod family-10

I shared a morning commute with the McLeod family in May 2014.
Ride Along with McLeod family-9

It was so narrow one person (behind the pole) had to stop and schooch over.
Sellwood Bridge Groundbreaking -19-19

Dignitaires with a check for $17 million (federal grant) in 2011. In the photo are Multnomah County commissioners (including former Chair Jeff Cogen), USDOT Undersecretary for Policy (and now head of NYCDOT) Polly Trottenberg (far right), and former ODOT Region 1 Director Jason Tell.

Advertisement

Sellwood Bridge Tour with Richard M.-6

Following BTA volunteer Richard Marantz’s wheel in 2007.
sellwoodbridge1

The first time I covered it in 2006.
Tour of Tomorrow

On an event ride in 2007 we took the lane thanks to a police escort.

So out with the old and in with the new!

Here’s more about tonight’s event from SellwoodBridge.org:

On Thursday night February 25, fans of the old Sellwood Bridge will have one last chance to say goodbye. The old bridge will permanently close to traffic that day at 7 pm. From 7:30 – 8:30 pm, residents can walk across the 90-year old bridge one last time to say goodbye. Bring your flashlights, electric candles, and phone lights for this candlelight event. A bagpiper in kilts will lead the gathered friends of the old bridge as we bid it farewell.

Participants should assemble on Grand Avenue off of Spokane street (near the bridge’s north sidewalk) no earlier than 7 pm. The procession starts at 7:30 pm. We’ll have time to walk from east to west and back again. The bridge will need to be cleared by 8:30 pm so that work to set up the new bridge for traffic can begin.

I was hoping to get out there today and grab some interviews and photos but it’s not going to happen. Instead, I’m hoping to capture some of your thoughts here on the blog.

And remember, there’s a big celebration for the new bridge happening Saturday and the new bridge officially opens for regular traffic on March 1st.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

BikePortland can’t survive without paid subscribers. Please sign up today.

Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

60 Comments
  • Adam H.
    Adam H. February 25, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Good riddance, three foot sidewalk! Hello, mostly okay dual twelve-foot multi-use paths!

    The old bridge was pretty unique though. Disappointing that it couldn’t be repurposed for some other use.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      mran1984 February 25, 2016 at 11:33 pm

      I always took the lane east or west, so that sidewalk was always for walking in my book. The new traffic design on the west side is going to speed things up, but I am not afraid of speed either. The sentimental thing is not too strong compared to so many other perceived improvements around town. There is a big difference between growth and horrific weight gain. I would like to second pixie’s take on the flaggers throughout this construction. Those folks were awesome! Yeah, I will miss it, but I will always call that building the Rose Garden too.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Tom Hardy February 25, 2016 at 11:52 pm

        I am with you mran1984. I always used the traffic lanes since 1960. Not every day or week bit the sidewalk was for walkers. I taught both of my kid’s to take the lanes as well. A terrific adrenalin rush. I will appreciate the new one even better.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          Mark smith February 27, 2016 at 5:25 pm

          Yes, throw the children in the road as sort of a dare for drivers. I like that. Who needs to drive with their kids in the back of the truck? Just have them ride in the street. Because, you know, that raised path over there is for the “other” people.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      q`Tzal February 26, 2016 at 7:50 am

      Take a segment of the railing as an architectural souvenir for a Portland historical museum. Surely saving some of our architectural history is better than none.
      The arch work design on the Sellwood is emblematic of that era.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Mark smith February 27, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      With no jersey barriers. Hello 18 wheeler running you over and the cops shrugging their shoulders

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    eli bishop February 25, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    So happy! The Greenway Trail won’t be finished until September, though, which means more biking on that ridiculous pole-infested tiny sidewalk.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    mw February 25, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Cyclists will still have to ride on the narrow sidewalks along Macadam until the regional trail connecting the bridge to Willamette Park opens – scheduled for late April.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      eli bishop February 25, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      April now? The sign says September.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Scott H February 25, 2016 at 10:37 pm

        It meant September 2015, so, it’s running 7 months behind supposedly.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Sigma February 25, 2016 at 7:44 pm

      And to top it off, we’re all going to grow old and die someday.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        alankessler February 26, 2016 at 9:40 am

        If we’re lucky!

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Eric Leifsdad February 26, 2016 at 12:10 am

      There is plenty of room and a 25mph speed limit on Macadam here. That anyone feels like they need to bike on the sidewalk is sad. Understandable, but sad.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        eli bishop February 26, 2016 at 9:22 am

        if there is a 25mph limit in theory, there is a 55mph in practice. so yeah, i’m not going to take the lane there.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    pixie February 25, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    I’ve been riding it for 20+ years, with daily, year-round commuting being the majority of those rides. It’s been challenging, but never as bad as some have made it out to be. Since the sidewalk is essentially one shared space for both directions, everyone I ever encountered on it (save for a recent grouch on foot) has been pleasant about the occasional need to pass each other while traveling in opposite directions.

    During the construction, the flaggers have been great in getting bikes through and Mike Pullen has been responsive and caring when I’ve contacted him about bike issues.

    I’m very excited about the new bridge and I know my ride on it will be a much better experience than the old bridge.

    Looking forward to Tuesday morning’s ride…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Nagmay February 25, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    I used to commute across it every day and will miss it. At least I have a souvenir to remember it by:

    Late one night, some yahoos in a truck tried to throw a potted plant at me/my bike. If it had hit me, I could have been easily knocked over the railing. Luckily, they appeared to be too drunk to give a straight toss. Now I have a beautiful azalea planted in my front yard.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      dbrunker February 25, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      I’m glad you’re both alright.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    eddie February 25, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    I don’t get why people would ever get sentimental about the old bridge. It was horrible!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      eli bishop February 25, 2016 at 10:01 pm

      because it was 90 years old? because sentimental and horrible are not mutually exclusive?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        eddie February 27, 2016 at 4:58 am

        But what was so great about it in the first place? What’s there to be sentimental about?

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dwaine Dibbly February 25, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    I know it would be an ecological disaster, but I would take a certain delight if they blew the dang thing up & dropped it in the river…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      q`Tzal February 26, 2016 at 7:54 am

      No!
      Between the bagpipe dirge sendoff and and a firey explosion that would be as unreliable as shooting Spock out on the Genesis planet.
      Who knows what sort of zombie we’d see next!

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Beeblebrox February 25, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    I’ll be very happy to see it go. Talk about a bridge designed without pedestrians or bicyclists in mind…the new one should be a huge improvement, and I prefer the design of the new one over the old one as well. The arches are beautiful.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Dave February 26, 2016 at 7:35 am

      Also, a bridge designed for Ford Model T’s going 20 mph. This bridge was obsolete before many of us were born. I won’t miss it at all.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    J_R February 25, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    I regret that tolls for autos were not instituted on the old bridge so that Clackamas County residents would have paid a share.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    B. Carfree February 25, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    The first time I encountered that thing I foolishly rode on that silly sidewalk. Since I was cruising into town at the end of a 150 mile ride with front panniers full of gear for the next two weeks, I was almost too wide for anyone to get by me (we managed, somehow, as I compressed my bags hard into the guard rail). Every time since then I’ve simply taken the travel lane and had very minimal issues from the folks in cars.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      JeffS February 25, 2016 at 6:25 pm

      Glad to hear. That’s generally the case everywhere.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        JeffS February 25, 2016 at 7:00 pm

        JeffS, we have an identity crisis. I will henceforth be known as JeffS(egundo) so that our remarks are distinguishable, should anyone care.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          JeffS February 25, 2016 at 7:25 pm

          I noticed a Jeff, and a Jeff S, but hadn’t realized there was another JeffS around.

          I tend to defer to a (somewhat) public persona on local boards. I’ll consider a switch to JeffSnavely.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    JeffS February 25, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Are the regulatory “walk bike” signs still there? Someone should grab those. Maybe they should go to those rare, unfortunate souls who actually did walk their bikes the ~1/2 mile. Nice view, though.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      eli bishop February 25, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      I walked my bike across that bridge because I was too afraid to fall into traffic. Heck, I was terrified of making anyone else on the bridge fall into traffic: it would just take one accidental wobble or handlebar tap…

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Adam February 25, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    Given its two out of ten safety rating, and shameful pedestrian and bike facilities, I’m going to say… no! 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Matt February 25, 2016 at 8:39 pm

      That was two out of one hundred!

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Ann February 26, 2016 at 9:55 pm

        does anyone know what it got two points for? Bridge not made of papier mache?

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rick February 25, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    I will miss the single lane aspect of the old bridge. The new interchange on the westside is meant to speed up cars.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      rick February 25, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      but I won’t miss the narrow sidewalk and the lack of a bench on which to sit.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Keith February 25, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Not the least bit of remorse. Just glad it didn’t collapse. Kudos to the Mult. Co. and contractor for doing an amazing job keeping the bridge open for cyclists and pedestrians throughout the entire project. No small feat.

    I do share Rick’s concern regarding the roadway design on the west side. Visually, everything says “freeway”, and I’m afraid folks will drive accordingly.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Adam H.
      Adam H. February 26, 2016 at 9:23 am

      That massive interchange with Macadam was mandated by ODOT. Go figure…

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    dbrunker February 25, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    I used to think, “That’s terrible, that they’re getting rid of that beautiful old bridge!” Then I looked at it and realized it wasn’t all that beautiful.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rachel b February 26, 2016 at 12:11 am

    Won’t miss it. I rode that sidewalk countless times before it became too heavily trafficked w/ runners, walkers and cyclists. It was always a harrowing, white-knuckle experience. Always hated popping off onto the road at the west end to get over to the cemetery, too! I do feel a little nostalgia–a symptom of my overall weariness of the extreme makeover of my once-familiar city, I think. I do like a safer bridge, though!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Doug February 26, 2016 at 4:03 am

    I understand the Sellwood Bridge was built in 1925, I got that part. But didn’t people walk, ride bikes and even horses back then. Certainly and probably more than now not less.

    So why so narrow? It was practically deficient the day it was built. It shows a lack of foresight.

    There is nothing to miss since it’s being replaced with a far superior structure, should have been done in the 1960’s.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      J_R February 26, 2016 at 6:30 am

      In 1925, when the bridge was built a typical vehicle was MUCH smaller. The bridge was hardly deficient.

      Ford’s Model T was still in production. It weighed 1200 pounds and had tread width of 56 inches. A large truck of the era had two axles with dual wheels in the rear and weighed less than a modern SUV.

      Sorry, but I simply don’t believe there was “lack of foresight” rather an enormous shift in vehicles over the course of four generations. Maybe you’re still riding a high-wheeler or an ordinary, I’m not. I’m also not driving a Model T.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        rick February 26, 2016 at 6:33 am

        I heard the Sellwood bridge was built by the same contractors / builders as the Ross Island Bridge but it was simply a lower bid I think. The Ross Island has a sidewalk with about a five or six foot width.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          J_R February 26, 2016 at 6:57 am

          The Sellwood Bridge was definitely built “on the cheap.” It actually reused some girders from the old Burnside Bridge built thirty years prior.

          The original Ross Island Bridge had sidewalks on both sides and narrower lanes. The south sidewalk was significantly reduced in width somewhere along the line. The south sidewalk was completely eliminated when the Ross Island Bridge was rehabbed in 2000-2001.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Doug February 26, 2016 at 8:52 am

        Aren’t you just agreeing with me? Doesn’t it show a lack of foresight to not anticipate the growth in vehicle size?

        How big was a Duesenberg in 1925? It had a straight 8 aircraft engine, not a compact by any stretch.

        So there were small Model Ts and lots of bigger cars too. Ford built Model Ts until nobody wanted to buy one anymore. “You can have it any color you want. As long as it’s black.” was Ford reaction to customer demand for more luxury. This reluctance to change with the times created General Motors. Model T production ceased in 1927 against Fords wishes. That could have been easily foreseen in 1925.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Doug February 26, 2016 at 9:57 am

        People rode safety bicycles (same sized wheels) in 1925, they were invented 50 years prior. The ordinary went out of use in the 1880’s for obvious reasons.

        I don’t think you know much about bridges or cycling or cars. Keep responding we’ll find out what else you don’t know much about. Tolls too. You sure don’t seem to know any history, bike bridge or otherwise.

        I’m sure all those folks waiting in line waiting to pay your brilliant toll idea would agree with me too. Those Clackamas County freeloaders anyhow! LOL

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Matt February 26, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      Probably a good thing that it took so long to replace. Anything built before 1994 will not be functional after the Big One. Now at least we have two bridges that will still be standing (hopefully).

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Eric February 26, 2016 at 6:36 am

    I could never decide if it was better to be on the road (fewer angry gestures, or the occasional angry driver tailgating way too close) or being on the sidewalk with so little margin of error on the tiny sidewalk with cars rushing by on one side- especially around the lampposts & people coming the other way- and a very low railing on the other.

    And I loved the mismatched set of trails you had to maneuver along the waterfront, before all the glass towers were built. Alas, I suppose it’s better, but riding up to OHSU or Lewis & Clark each morning from Sellwood was a point of pride for me. I don’t even live down there any more, but I’m sorry to see it go. And happy for the improvements.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Chris I February 26, 2016 at 7:49 am

    The old Sellwood bridge is a great case study in cutting corners to save money (built during the depression). If it had been built well, it would still be usable today.

    The new Sellwood bridge is a great case study in excessive spending. The interchange on the west end is overbuilt, because they wanted to avoid any north/south delays on HWY 43. They could have spent $100 million less and built a similarly effective bridge.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Doug February 26, 2016 at 8:36 am

      The stock market crash was in October 1929 and the worst years of the depression were well after that. Roosevelt didn’t close the banks until March of 1933.

      Depression era bridges were probably better financed because of the New Deal provided “make work” projects anyway.

      This bridge was built in 1925, the roaring 20’s an optimistic time that should have produced a better bridge.

      Somebody really dropped the ball IMO and the people who used it agree.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      J_R February 26, 2016 at 8:53 am

      Nonsense. The most important issue causing structural failure of the Sellwood Bridge was the slow-moving, subsurface landslide that caused a shift in the bridge piers. There have been significant improvements in engineers’ understanding of geotechnical issues in the last hundred years. Lindenthal didn’t have ground-penetrating radar available to help him design what he couldn’t see.

      Also, as I pointed out above, the common vehicle of the era was far smaller and lighter than what we use today.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Doug February 26, 2016 at 9:25 am

        Neither did Washington Roebling, yet the Brooklyn Bridge is still standing tall. The western tower still sits on sand instead of bedrock, because so many people died of the bends in the caissons excavating the towers to get to bedrock.

        The engineers then didn’t know what they didn’t know, so they over built structures. So what is the Sellwood Bridges excuse?

        LACK OF FORESIGHT. they worried about the cost, not what would occur 10 years from now, certainly not 50 years and look at the results.

        Make excuses for them if you want, but they are just excuses, and they all stink. I bet they say a hell of a lot worse things about our generation 90 years from now. We knew better and went on doing stupid things anyway.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Eric Leifsdad February 26, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Our ride to school from Barbur down Corbett was amazingly pleasant this morning. A large volume of the traffic there must be bypassing the poor signal timing on Terwilliger and Taylor’s Ferry?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Tad February 26, 2016 at 9:34 am

    I hope now that it’s open there’ll be some enhanced visibility on the glaring lack of bike accessibility southbound on the OR-43 corridor. Getting to LO or West Linn via bike still means a 500′ climb & detour through the Cemetary and Tryon, which – whilst pretty and great exercise – is silly from a commuter perspective.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      rick February 26, 2016 at 9:57 am

      Tell ODOT and Metro and TriMet to make a rails-to-trails project for the Willamette Shore Trolley.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Tad February 26, 2016 at 11:42 am

    I already don’t understand why Lake Oswego torpedoed the streetcar extension on the Willamette Shore right-of-way. Especially with the new development in downtown LO, it’s senseless that the only workable way to get there is by automobile.

    Portland is going to maintain at any cost (and rightly so) the future possibility of using the Willamette Shore tracks for future transit options, so I think it’s highly unlikely they’re going to rip up those tracks for a bikeway.

    That being said, options are limited. The 4-lane portions of OR-43 could be narrowed to make room for a dedicated bike lane, or pick up the option from the city’s 2010 streetcar-is-gonna-happen plans to make a multi-use bridge paralleling the freight rail bridge across the Willamette to connect to the Milwaukie trolly trail.

    http://www.oregonmetro.gov/sites/default/files/trail_segments092910.pdf

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Chris I February 26, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      Because you can’t take your Lexus SUV on the streetcar.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      rick February 26, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      Many in LO want a trail, not a one-way $treetcar.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Harth February 27, 2016 at 7:39 am

    I’ll miss it. The tight space always (ok, mostly) made for cordial, polite interactions with other users. I liked those. Also, I enjoyed navigating the tight switchback ramp on the west side.

    Of course, I won’t miss those things, but I did appreciate them while they were happening.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Mark smith February 27, 2016 at 11:08 am

    They could have left it open for a month…but nope. Would want folks to know how amazing it would be to have a car free bridge….for free.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar