02 March 2016

[pdx] The Sellwood Bridge Opening, Part III: The Architecture

I must admit first off, I did not get any good views on the new bridge from the bank. It seemed a little tough with no ready viewpoints, and the only one I could think of being on the State Hwy 43 side, and a little inaccessable. Until I do, let this simulation from the Sellwood Bridge project site suffice. Three graceful arches supporting a down-to-business, yet subtly well-shaped traffic deck.

I confess, it wasn't my first choice when they rolled out the designs for public comment, but it has grown on me mightily. Meeting the bridge personally sold me; let's just say, it had me at "hello".

Here, again, is the old rusted sign-gantry from the crest of the old bridge:

For all its legendary frailty, the big metal supporting truss under the aged concrete upper deck gives this broad-chested impression of strength and solidity. If it was as frail as all that, it must have been built subliminally-well.

Looking back the other direction …

… you see what's been holding the bridge up this past year-plus. Those supports look spindly, but they've been getting the job done. In case the reader didn't know, the old span is actually slightly north of the new one, which is dead-on where the old one used to be. Before the new span was really underway, the engineering crew put those up and then jacked the old span over to rest on the new supports. Which is kind of amazing, when you think about how much work that took, the engineering involved, and the fact that cars continued to travel safely across the old bridge (which was probably safer than before because of those slight yet strong temporary supports).

The above picture gives you a view of the new under-structure versus  the old. The old: weary and worn, the new: sleek, sexy, and poised. It's said that, in one of the surveys before the replacement, the Sellwood was rated on a scale of 1 to 100, and it rated a mere 2. It's now said that the new structure is so well designed that it will take more of a shake than Cascadia Next is due to deliver. That is to say, when that quake hits, the old bridge is one of the last places you'd want to be; the new bridge, though, is one of the places you'd most want to find yourself in.

Given that Portland's river could turn the city into two unwittingly-isolated halves, knowing this bridge is here should bring great comfort.

Above: a view of that aged undercarriage. The weariness and the wear is unmistakable. Below: a tight shot up the old span. Teeny little narrow thing; lanes just barely wide enough for some of today's cars, and a sidewalk that is unforgivably narrow.

The old Sellwood. Just beyond can be seen the graceful arches of the new span, but the old span is the star here. As tough as it is, as down-to-earth as it is, as old as it is, it has some simple beauty to it. All bridges do. 

… and a staging and materiel area at the west end. This was not always thus. For a very long time, at the foot of what was once Sellwood Ferry Rd, for there was a ferry before there was any bridge. there was a boat seller and marina of long, long standing, which was named for the man who started it: Staff Jennings. It had a sign with a fluctuating neon star which was a landmark for the many years I drove past it.

Also, just another memory.

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