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Burnside Bridge

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Burnside Bridge
Coordinates45°31′23″N 122°40′01″W / 45.5231°N 122.667°W / 45.5231; -122.667
CrossesWillamette River
LocalePortland, Oregon
Maintained byMultnomah County
ID number02757
DesignDouble-leaf "Strauss-type" bascule
Total length1,382 ft (421 m)
Width73.8 ft (22.5 m)
Longest spanFixed: 268 ft (82 m)[1]
Double-leaf bascule: 252 ft (77 m)[1][2]
Clearance below64 ft (20 m) closed
DesignerIra G. Hedrick;
Robert E. Kremers
OpenedMay 28, 1926
(replaced 1894 bridge)
Burnside Bridge
LocationPortland, Oregon; Willamette River at river mile 12.7
MPSWillamette River Highway Bridges of Portland, Oregon
NRHP reference No.12000931[3]
Added to NRHPNovember 14, 2012[3]

The Burnside Bridge is a 1926-built bascule bridge that spans the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, United States, carrying Burnside Street. It is the second bridge at the same site to carry that name. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November 2012.[3][4]



The bridge was designed by Ira G. Hedrick[5] and Robert E. Kremers, incorporating a bascule lift mechanism designed by Joseph Strauss.[2]

The bridge almost fully opened

Including approaches, the Burnside has a total length of 2,308 ft (703 m) and a 251 ft (77 m) center span. While lowered this span is normally 64 ft (20 m) above the river. The deck is made of concrete, which contributes to its being one of the heaviest bascule bridges in the United States.[2] The counterweights, housed inside the two piers, weigh 1,700 short tons (1,518 long tons; 1,542 t). The lifting is normally controlled by the Hawthorne Bridge operator, but an operator staffs the west tower during high river levels. As of 2005, the bridge opened for river traffic an average of 35 times a month.[2]: 47 

The bridge provides shelter for the initially unauthorized Burnside Skatepark under the east end.[6] On weekends, the Portland Saturday Market was held mostly under the bridge's west end for many years. The market was reoriented in 2009, but the Burnside Bridge continues to provide shelter for a few vendor stalls at the market's northern end.



In 1891, Burnside Street was renamed from "B" street to take the name of Dan Wyman Burnside, a local businessman who was a proponent of the 1866 dredging of the Willamette River.[2] Construction of the original Burnside Bridge began in November 1892, and the bridge opened on July 4, 1894.[7] It was a swing-span truss bridge made of wrought iron and steel.[8]

The replacement was part of a $4.5 million bond that also included the construction of the Ross Island and Sellwood bridges. The public would later learn that the 1924 contract was given for $500,000 more than the lowest bid. Having moved the bridge location to profit by selling their land, three Multnomah County commissioners were recalled as a result of the scandal, and a new engineering company assumed control of the project. The Ku Klux Klan had backed the commissioners and enabled their system of kickbacks and grafts; the ensuing "rotten bridge scandal" removed much of their clout even by 1924.[9]

One of the bridge's two ornate towers

The bridge opened on May 28, 1926, at a final cost of $4.5 million (including approaches). It was the first Willamette River bridge in Portland designed with input from an architect.[1] This led to the Italian Renaissance towers and decorative metal railings. The bascule system was designed by Joseph Strauss. The initial principal engineer for the bridge construction was the firm of Hedrick & Kremers. The bridge was then completed by Gustav Lindenthal,[10] who also supervised its construction.[2]

Streetcars crossed the Burnside Bridge until 1950,[11] and electric trolleybuses serving the Sandy Blvd. route did so from 1936 to 1958.[12] Currently, three TriMet bus routes use the bridge.

In the 1990s the Burnside Bridge was made a Regional Emergency Transportation Route, the one non-freeway bridge to be used by emergency vehicles. In 1995 one of the six lanes was removed to accommodate new bicycle lanes. From March until November 2002 the bridge went through a $2.1 million seismic retrofit, making it the first bridge operated by Multnomah County to receive earthquake protection.

The bridge was under construction in 2006 in order to replace the deck.[13] The electric streetcar tracks, abandoned in 1950, were visible during the construction. This project was budgeted at $9 million and the majority of the work was completed on December 9, 2007.[14][15] The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places[16] in November 2012.[4]

Burnside Skatepark

The Eastbank Esplanade, which opened in 2001, is connected to the bridge by stairs added during the esplanade's construction. However, because of the bridge's age, it cannot support any extra weight, so the stairways must be supported by separate pilings.[17]

In 2020, the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project deemed that the current short span bridge would not survive a major earthquake, and recommended a replacement long span bridge.[18] Early concepts for the new bridge included designs that resembled nearby Willamette River bridges;[19] the six finalists, organized into cable-stayed and tied-arch designs, were presented for a public vote in July 2024. The replacement is estimated to cost $895 million and would begin construction in 2026; it is scheduled to open by 2031.[20][21]


Indie rock band the Mountain Goats prominently mention the Burnside Bridge in the lyrics of their 2012 song "Steal Smoked Fish".[22]

See also



  1. ^ a b c "Burnside Bridge". Multnomah County. 22 September 2010. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Wood Wortman, Sharon; Wortman, Ed (2006). The Portland Bridge Book (3rd ed.). Urban Adventure Press. pp. 45–52. ISBN 0-9787365-1-6.
  3. ^ a b c "Weekly list of actions taken on properties: 11/13/12 through 11/16/12". National Park Service. November 23, 2012. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Tims, Dana (November 21, 2012). "Four Multnomah County bridges listed on National Register of Historic Places". The Oregonian. p. B1. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  5. ^ Ira Grant Hedrick, Designer of Bridges; Built the Burnside Lift Span at Portland, Ore.-Firm Did Work in Mexico-Dies at 69. The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Portland's Burnside Skatepark". Dreamland Skateparks. Archived from the original on 2006-11-08. Retrieved 2006-11-05.
  7. ^ MacColl, E. Kimbark (1976). "Chapter 7 – A Community of Many Interests, 1891–1895". The Shaping of a City: Business and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1885 to 1915. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press Company. p. 154. ISBN 0-89174-043-0.
  8. ^ Bottenberg, Ray (2007). Bridges of Portland. Arcadia Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7385-4876-0.
  9. ^ Chandler, J. D. (2016). Murder & scandal in prohibition Portland : sex, vice & misdeeds in Mayor Baker's reign. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-4671-1953-5. OCLC 928581539.
  10. ^ Smith, Dwight A.; Norman, James B.; Dykman, Pieter T. (1989). Historic Highway Bridges of Oregon. Oregon Historical Society Press. p. 118. ISBN 0-87595-205-4.
  11. ^ Hatch, Tom (February 27, 1980). "End of lines 30 years ago: New 'trolleys' can't beat old ones". The Oregonian, p. D7.
  12. ^ Sebree, Mac; and Ward, Paul (1974). The Trolley Coach in North America (Interurbans Special 59). Los Angeles: Interurbans. LCCN 74-20367.
  13. ^ "Burnside Bridge Span Rehabilitation". City of Portland. Retrieved 2006-10-05.
  14. ^ Redden, Jim (December 13, 2005). "County gears up to do bridge work". Portland Tribune. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
  15. ^ "Burnside Bridge Lift Span Rehabilitation". Multnomah County. Archived from the original on 2007-05-26. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
  16. ^ Harden, Kevin (November 20, 2012) [re-dated November 19 later]. "Four downtown bridges earn historic honors". Portland Tribune. Archived from the original on November 15, 2013. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  17. ^ "Eastbank Esplanade". The City of Portland. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  18. ^ "Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge". Multnomah County. 2020. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  19. ^ Theen, Andrew (August 4, 2020). "New Burnside Bridge could look like a combination of nearby Willamette River bridges". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  20. ^ Rogoway, Mike (July 2, 2024). "Vote on the design for Portland's new $895 million Burnside Bridge". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 3, 2024.
  21. ^ Ramakrishnan, Jayati (January 25, 2022). "Task force signs off on Burnside Bridge replacement with one less lane, other cost-cutting measures". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  22. ^ Barbour, Kyle. "The Annotated Mountain Goats: Steal Smoked Fish b/w In the Shadow of the Western Hills". Retrieved September 29, 2017.