The bridge has two decks carrying vehicular traffic, each with four lanes. The upper deck is signed westbound on US 30 and southbound on I-405. The lower deck is signed eastbound on US 30 and northbound on I-405.
Due to the public's dissatisfaction with the appearance of the Marquam Bridge, the Portland Art Commission was invited to participate in the design process of the Fremont. The improvement in visual quality resulted in a bridge that was nearly six times as expensive as the purposely-economical Marquam Bridge. Designers modeled the bridge after the Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The steel tie-girder (I-beam) is 18-feet tall and 50-in wide. On October 28, 1971, while still under construction, a six-foot-long crack was found on the west span of this girder that required a $5.5 million redesign and repair. The ramps and approaches are steel box girders. If the lanes of the bridge were placed end-to-end, there are 3.27 lane-miles on the arch bridge and 14.12 lane-miles on the ramps and approaches.
The center span of the bridge, where the rib of the arch is above the deck, is 902 feet long. It was fabricated in California then assembled at Swan Island, 1.7 miles (2.7 km) downstream. After assembly it was floated on a barge the 1.7 mile trip to the construction site. On March 16, 1973, the 6,000-ton steel arch span was lifted 170 ft (52 m) using 32 hydraulic jacks. At the time, it was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest lift ever completed.
The bridge was opened on November 15, 1973, at a final cost of $82 million, most of which was financed by the Federal Highway Administration. In 1976, an American flag and an Oregon flag were added atop the structure as part of the bicentennial celebration for the United States. The flags were installed with the use of a helicopter. The 15-by-25-foot (4.6 m × 7.6 m) flags are attached to 50-foot (15 m) tall flagpoles at the crest of the arches.