|Carries||cars, pedestrians, cyclists|
|Total length||1,971 ft (601 m)|
|Width||28 ft (8.5 m)|
|Longest span||300 ft (91 m)|
|Clearance below||75 ft (23 m)|
|Opened||December 15, 1925|
|Daily traffic||30,000 (2005)|
The Sellwood Bridge is a truss bridge that spans the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, in the United States. It was Portland's first fixed-span bridge and, being the only river crossing for miles in each direction, is the busiest two-lane bridge in Oregon. It links the Sellwood and Westmoreland neighborhoods of Portland on the east side with Oregon Route 43/Macadam Avenue on the west side. At its east end it leads to Tacoma Street. The bridge is owned and operated by Multnomah County. The bridge's condition has been deteriorating for some years, and in the mid-2000s this led to a decision to replace it. A three-and-a-half-year project to construct a replacement bridge has been under way since December 2011.
Designed by Gustav Lindenthal, the bridge opened on December 15, 1925 at a final cost of $541,000 (equivalent to $6.9 million in 2011). It is 1,971 feet (601 m) long with 75 feet (23 m) of vertical waterway clearance. It has four continuous spans, all of Warren type. The two center spans are 300 feet (91 m) long, and the two outside spans are 246 feet (75 m) each. The girders from the old Burnside Bridge (built in 1894) were reused at each end. The two-lane roadway is 24 feet (7.3 m) wide. There is a sidewalk on the downstream side only, with a width of 4 feet 3 inches (1.30 m); however, the street light foundations share space with the sidewalk, making the sidewalk's usable width at those points about 3 feet (36 inches, 91 cm). Allowing for safety clearances, there is less than 2 feet (24 inches, 61 cm) of usable sidewalk. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance lists the Sellwood Bridge as one of the top ten priorities for improving Portland's bicycling.
The bridge's condition has been deteriorating since the 1960s, and it is now set to be replaced by a new bridge, construction of which is targeted to begin in 2012; however as of mid-2011, $25 million was still needed. In an October 2011 study, the Department of Transportation wrote that the Sellwood Bridge must be replaced 'immediately'. On December 15, 2011, the county received US federal funding sufficient to begin immediate work on a replacement. On July 19, 2012, Multnomah County commissioners approved a $299 million design for a new bridge.
On January 19, 2013, the bridge was moved onto temporary steel supports by contractor Omega Morgan. Traffic will use the bridge as a detour until the replacement bridge is completed in the summer 2015 and the old concrete piers will be demolished.
Upon discovery of cracks in both concrete approaches in January 2004, the weight limit on the bridge was lowered from 32 tons to 10 tons. This has caused the diversion of about 1,400 daily truck and bus trips, including 94 daily TriMet bus trips. Over the few years that followed, there was debate on whether the bridge should be replaced, repaired, closed altogether, or closed for automotive traffic (but left open for pedestrians and bicycles). In April 2005, Bechtel gave Multnomah County an unsolicited plan to replace the bridge through a public-private partnership.
In July 2007, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners considered several options for a replacement bridge. At the time, the top option was a 75-foot-wide (23 m) bridge with two car lanes and two transit lanes, running just south of the current bridge, with a projected cost of $302 million. In November 2008, however, the Sellwood Bridge team issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement containing details on five different finalist designs and alignments.
In February 2009, the Policy Advisory Group (PAG), based on recommendations provide by a Community Task Force and the public, selected a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). The LPA includes replacement of the existing bridge with a new bridge, alignment approximately 15 feet south of Tacoma Street, allowing continuous traffic flow at the crossing during construction, a pedestrian-actuated signal at Tacoma Street and SE 6th Avenue, and a signal at the west end interchange. The LPA is 64 feet (or less) wide and consists of two traffic lanes, two bike lanes, and two 12-foot (3.7 m) wide sidewalks. A final Environmental Impact Statement was published in spring 2010, and it was approved by the Federal Highway Administration in July 2010.
After evaluation in 2010 of several different possible designs, a two-lane steel deck arch bridge was chosen for the replacement bridge. This was approved by the Multnomah County Commission on January 27, 2011. The new bridge will be strong enough to carry streetcars and the design will include some provisions intended to make the potential installation of a streetcar line across the bridge easier, should city officials later decide to build such a line. Plans to include streetcar tracks were briefly considered in late 2010, but dropped in January 2011 to reduce costs.
On July 19, 2012, a final design was approved by Multnomah County commissioners. The design is a steel deck arch bridge with pedestrian and bicycle lanes on both sides. A cost-reducing design was put forth that would have provided a raised area for bikes and pedestrians only on the south side, leaving only a bike lane on the north side, but it was not approved. During construction, the existing bridge will be slid onto temporary supports to function as a detour bridge to allow continued traffic. Construction will be funded with $136 million from the county (raised from a $17 annual vehicle registration fee), $33 million from the federal government, $35 million from the state, and $84.5 million from the city of Portland.
On January 19, 2013, Omega Morgan, working with Multnomah County government, moved the 6.8-million pound Sellwood Bridge from its current location onto new pylons. To match the newly built onramps, the bridge was moved 66 feet on its west end and 33 feet on its east end. The moved bridge, known as a shoofly bridge, will serve as a temporary span until the new crossing is completed in 2016.
Cost and funding
In July 2009, Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the Oregon Jobs and Transportation Act of 2009, which includes funding for the new Sellwood Bridge. The Act designates $30 million to build a new interchange at the west end, permits Multnomah and Clackamas counties to fund the project through local vehicle registration fees, and allocates transportation funds from state vehicle fees and gas taxes.
In October 2009, the Multnomah County board of commissioners approved a plan to levy an annual $19 registration fee on vehicles registered in the county, to provide its share of the cost of the replacement bridge. Collection of the new fee began in 2010 and is scheduled to continue for 20 years, raising approximately $127 million. As owner of the bridge, the county's contribution is the largest component of the funding plan, but several other governments are also due to share in the cost of the project, under a funding agreement approved in early February 2011. In addition to the $127 million from Multnomah County, the City of Portland has agreed to provide $100 million, the state of Oregon $30 million, Clackamas County $22 million, and the federal government $11 million. As of February 2011, about $20 million of the estimated $290 million cost has still to be found. Due to a general shortage of funds, the project has been scaled back in scope from earlier plans that would have cost $330 million.
Clackamas County's share was scheduled to come from a $5-per-year increase in vehicle registration fees, starting in 2012. This plan was approved by that county's board of commissioners in December 2010. However, some county residents opposed the idea, on the basis that the bridge is located within Multnomah County. Bridge project officials pointed out that traffic statistics had shown that 70% of the daily trips across the bridge start or end in Clackamas County, while a not-dissimilar percentage of the trips, about 80%, start or end in Multnomah County, arguing that residents of both counties thereby appear to benefit about equally from the bridge. Opponents nevertheless succeeded in gathering enough signatures on initiative petitions to place the matter on the ballot for a public vote by Clackamas County residents. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the fee, with 37% in favor, and 63% against.
Despite the rejection by Clackamas County voters, Multnomah County decided to move ahead with bridge construction. In December 2011, a "TIGER" grant from the US Department of Transportation closed most of the gap, and construction began on December 16.
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- Ted Wheeler, Multnomah County Chair; Deborah Kafoury, Commissioner – District 1, Email to Sellwood Bridge Users, 30 July 2009
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Media related to Sellwood Bridge at Wikimedia Commons
- Multnomah County: Sellwood Bridge Project Information, announcements, surveys related to addressing Sellwood Bridge users' needs, including Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
- Rampant political corruption resulted in a weak Sellwood Bridge - The Oregonian