24 January 2012

[OR_liff] The Bridges Of Marion County

2770.Well, not all of them. Actually, life in the Willamette Valley outside of Portland is a very east-side/west-side thing; the side of the river you live on divides us from them. In Marion County,  which to me has always been the heartland of the valley (as well as where I first stepped into this world we share) there are amazingly few places to cross the river, in fixed form: two of the marvellous river ferries, the Wheatland (at the north end) and the Buena Vista (at the south end) connect Marion and its sister Polk counties, and other than that, there are just three other bridges into Polk: Two in Salem and one coming back in the other way, from Independence, leading back into Salem along River Road S.

Therefore, most of the cross-regional traffic, east from the coast to the mountains, west from the Cascades to the sea, is going to go over one crossing-point. Oregon State Hwy 22, which crosses westbound over the Willamette in downtown Salem as the Marion Street Bridge, and eastbound into downtown from West Salem as the Center Street Bridge.

Now, as anyone who knows Salem will tell you, Salem doesn't have much of a reputation as a bridge town or a river town ... memorable river traffic ended with the all-too-brief riverboat era on the Willamette. Lying rather passively along the Willamette, and with a river crossing designed to get you over it without much notice, the Cherry City's cool with being associated with Oregon's signature river, but they're just acquaintances, really. There's no river orientation with downtown, really, at least no strong one. There's a Salem Riverfront Park at long last, but for Salem, when I was growing up there, the river was something back behind the railroads that then choked Front Street and the Boise Cascade paper mill (now being pulled down, I understand).

It's with some joy, then, that I see the author of the blog Cyclotram, another one of us underrated Portland Blogs who get no notice or press but deserve some, is apparently on a project to record Willamette bridges, and in these two slide shows, he shines a rather affectionate light on Salem's two queens of the river:

This is the Marion Street Bridge:

Marion Street Bridge

And here's a link to the entire Flickr album for this: http://www.flickr.com//photos/atul666/sets/72157628985687099/show/

And this is the Center Street Bridge:

Center Street Bridge

And here's a link to the Flickr album for thathttp://www.flickr.com//photos/atul666/sets/72157628985687099/show/

The history of bridges in Salem is that we'll do fine with what we have, and maybe we'll build another one, someday, maybe. Perhaps. When I was in high school in Salem, they were talking about it then, and that was … well, long enough ago. They've been batting around the idea of a third Willamette bridge in Salem for the last few decades like a bored cat. There's a proposal to do that still. This one's been under study since … 2002. Yep. 10 Years. That's how they roll down in Snailem. Or, as brx0 aptly put it:
Based on past history, the most likely candidate would be the city deciding it's time to build the fifth Center Street Bridge, and start demolishing the current one while you're still on it. It's not a city that does anything quickly, though. There's a current proposal out there to build an additional bridge in the greater Salem area, and it'll be years before they'll even break ground on it, if they ever do. So chances are you'll have had plenty of warning -- months or years, probably -- plus I just told you there was a miniscule but nonzero chance it might happen. So can't say you weren't warned.
Salem. Just accept it.

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