Broadway Bridge (Portland)

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Broadway Bridge
Carries Vehicles, Portland Streetcar and pedestrians
Crosses Willamette River
Locale Portland, Oregon
Maintained by Multnomah County
ID number 06757
Designer Ralph Modjeski
Design Truss with double-leaf Rall-type bascule lift span
Total length 1,742 (531 m)
Width 70 feet
Longest span Fixed: 297 ft (91 m)
Double-leaf bascule:
278 ft (85 m)[1]
Vertical clearance 13 feet (3.9 m)
Clearance below 70 ft closed

April 22, 1913

Broadway Bridge
Location Portland, Oregon; Willamette River at river mile 11.7
Coordinates 45°31′55″N 122°40′26″W / 45.531816°N 122.673898°W / 45.531816; -122.673898Coordinates: 45°31′55″N 122°40′26″W / 45.531816°N 122.673898°W / 45.531816; -122.673898
MPS Willamette River Highway Bridges of Portland, Oregon
NRHP Reference # 12000930[2]
Added to NRHP November 14, 2012[2]

The Broadway Bridge (1913) is a Rall-type bascule bridge spanning the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, United States; Portland's first bascule bridge; intended and continues to hold the distinction of the longest span of its bascule design type in the world;[3] and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (November 2012).[4][5][2][4]

History and description[edit]

The bridge was intended to be the world's largest bascule bridge and there was competition between the Strauss, Scherzer, and Rall bascule design patent holders.[6] The "Rall" was selected based on cost,[7]

Ralph Modjeski designed the structure,[8] which opened on April 22, 1913, at a cost of $1.6 million. The bridge name derives from the street it carries, Broadway, although at the time Broadway ended at the east bank of the river and the extension of the street by bridge would encounter 7th Avenue on the west bank; the latter was renamed.[1]

The bridge has four vehicle lanes (two lanes in each direction) that in 2001 carried about 27,000 vehicles per day, is a major bicycle route over the river with more than 2,000 crossing daily,[9] and has a pair of 11-foot (3.4 m) wide sidewalks. On average, there are about 25 incidents per month of river traffic openings of the bridge.

The bridge was originally black, matching the nearby Steel and Hawthorne spans, but Portland architect Lewis Crutcher suggested (1961) each have its own distinct color.[10] The Broadway Bridge was repainted "Golden Gate" red[1][11][12] (also known as international orange)[13] in 1963.[14]

The bridge's bascule span open

Because it is such a complicated bridge there have been frequent repairs to its structure and mechanicals. In 1948, the concrete deck was replaced with steel grating. During 1982, bicycle access was improved through an $18,000 signal and sidewalk upgrade. In order to improve access and reduce energy costs, the sidewalks and lighting were replaced in 2000–2001.[15] The Lovejoy Viaduct was removed in 1999 as part of the $10 million construction of the shorter Lovejoy Ramp that opened in September 2001. A $28 million renovation began in February 2003. Included in this was the replacement of steel grating with a fiber-reinforced polymer composite material called DuraSpan, made by Martin Marietta Materials.[16] The renovation was completed in February 2005.

A streetcar at the west end of the bridge in 2013
Lights along the bridge

In July 2010 the bridge was closed to all traffic for two months in order to re-establish the streetcar route that had previously used the bridge until 1940, and extend the Portland Streetcar system.[17][18][19] Progress was sufficient to reopen two of four lanes of the bridge on September 4.[20] The trolley buses had also used the Broadway Bridge from 1937 to 1958. The new streetcar line opened in September 2012.[21]

In popular culture[edit]

The Broadway Bridge is prominently featured in the climax of the film Untraceable (2008).[22] In the film, FBI agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) becomes stranded on the east end of the bridge after an online serial killer hacks into her car's computer.[23] The scene was filmed both on location as well as on a studio sound stage.

In the film, Bandits (2001), Joe Blake (Bruce Willis) and Terry Collins (Billy Bob Thornton) are driving across the Broadway Bridge when their stolen car runs out of gas.[citation needed] They leave the car on the bridge, and when Terry returns with gas, he finds the police surrounding their car; Terry evades police attention when he inconspicuously turns around and descends on the west side of the bridge a set of stairs that open onto Naito Parkway, where Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchett), who is driving a speeding car, hits him.

In the film, Foxfire (1996), the bridge is scaled by two of the teenage heroines.[citation needed]


Historic American Engineering Record drawings[edit]

Detailed drawings and description from the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), a U.S. National Park Service program.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Wood Wortman, Sharon; Wortman, Ed (2006). The Portland Bridge Book (3rd Edition). Urban Adventure Press. pp. 31–38. ISBN 0-9787365-1-6. 
  2. ^ a b c "Weekly list of actions taken on properties: 11/13/12 through 11/16/12". National Park Service. November 23, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  3. ^ Smith, Dwight A. (1989). Historic Highway Bridges of Oregon. Oregon Historical Society Press. p. 116. ISBN 0-87595-205-4. 
  4. ^ a b Tims, Dana (November 21, 2012). "Four Multnomah County bridges listed on National Register of Historic Places". The Oregonian. p. B1. Retrieved November 9, 2013. 
  5. ^ Harden, Kevin (November 20, 2012). "Four downtown bridges earn historic honors". Portland Tribune. Retrieved November 20, 2012. 
  6. ^ Wood, Sharon (2001). The Portland Bridge Book. Oregon Historical Society. ISBN 0-87595-211-9. 
  7. ^ "Willamette River (Broadway) Bridge" (Word). Oregon Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2006-11-06. 
  8. ^ Glomb, Jozef; Peter J. Obst (Translator) (2002) (in English). A man who spanned two eras: The story of bridge engineer Ralph Modjeski. Philadelphia: Kosciuszko Foundation. ISBN 978-0-917004-25-4.
  9. ^ " bridge bike traffic up in '05". Retrieved 2006-04-09. 
  10. ^ Editorial (October 12, 1961). "'Singing' Bridges". The Oregonian, p. 24.
  11. ^ Editorial (May 28, 1962). "Orange-Red Bridge". The Oregonian, p. 16.
  12. ^ "The Broadway Bridge". Light The Bridges. Willamette Light Brigade. Retrieved February 10, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Broadway Bridge". The Low/No-Budget Guide to Portland Oregon. Zinester's Guide to Portland. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  14. ^ "Broadway Span To Shut Sunday" (June 20, 1963). The Oregonian, Section 2, p. 12.
  15. ^ "Broadway Lighting and Sidewalk Project". Multnomah County. Retrieved 2006-11-09. 
  16. ^ "Martin Marietta Composites Completes Landmark Installation Of Broadway Bridge Deck" (Press release). Martin Marietta Materials. August 20, 2004. Retrieved 2006-11-09. 
  17. ^ Rose, Joseph (July 5, 2010). "Streetcar work shutting down Broadway Bridge". The Oregonian. p. A10. Retrieved November 9, 2013. 
  18. ^ Rose, Joseph (July 14, 2010). "Slideshow update: Transportation officials improve Broadway Bridge bike, pedestrian detour". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 9, 2013. 
  19. ^ Wood, Sharon M. (April 23, 1984). "Robust Broadway Bridge celebrates 71st year in fine shape". The Oregonian, p. B5.
  20. ^ Rose, Joseph (September 2, 2010). "Two lanes, sidewalk of Portland's Broadway Bridge set to reopen Saturday". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 9, 2013. 
  21. ^ Rose, Joseph (September 22, 2012). "Portland Streetcar's eastside loop gets off to hobbled start Saturday". The Oregonian. p. B1. Retrieved November 9, 2013. 
  22. ^ KATU review: The Broadway Bridge stars in "Untraceable"
  23. ^ YouTube video: "On the Broadway Bridge"

External links[edit]