Hawthorne Bridge

Coordinates: 45°30′48″N 122°40′15″W / 45.513204°N 122.670937°W / 45.513204; -122.670937
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Hawthorne Bridge
Coordinates45°30′47″N 122°40′14″W / 45.513°N 122.6706°W / 45.513; -122.6706
CarriesVehicles, pedestrians, cyclists
CrossesWillamette River
LocalePortland, Oregon
Maintained byMultnomah County
DesignParker truss[1] with a vertical-lift span
Total length1,382 feet (421 m)
Width73 feet (22 m)
Longest span244 feet (74 m)
No. of spans6 (excluding concrete girder approach spans)
Piers in water6
Clearance below49 feet (15 m) closed
159 feet (48 m) open
DesignerWaddell & Harrington
OpenedDecember 19, 1910 (1910-12-19)
ReplacesMadison Street Bridge No. 2
Daily traffic30,000[1]
Hawthorne Bridge
Portland Historic Landmark[2]
LocationPortland, Oregon; Willamette River at river mile 13.1
Coordinates45°30′48″N 122°40′15″W / 45.513204°N 122.670937°W / 45.513204; -122.670937
ArchitectWaddell & Harrington
MPSWillamette River Highway Bridges of Portland, Oregon
NRHP reference No.12000932
Added to NRHPNovember 14, 2012[3]

The Hawthorne Bridge is a truss bridge with a vertical lift that spans the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, joining Hawthorne Boulevard and Madison Street. It is the oldest vertical-lift bridge in operation in the United States[1] and the oldest highway bridge in Portland. It is also the busiest bicycle and transit bridge in Oregon, with over 8,000 cyclists[4] and 800 TriMet buses (carrying about 17,400 riders) daily.[1] It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November 2012.[3][5]


The bridge consists of five fixed spans and one 244-foot-long (74 m) vertical-lift span. It is 1,382 feet (421 m) in total length.[1] The bridge was originally 63 feet (19 m) wide,[6] including two five-foot sidewalks, but the sidewalks were widened to 10 feet in 1998, increasing the structure's overall width to 73 feet (22 m).[1] The 880,000-pound (400,000 kg) counterweights are suspended from the two 165-foot-tall (50 m) towers.[1] It is operated by a pair of 150-horsepower motors.[7] On average, the lift span is raised for river traffic 120 times per month.[1]: 62  While the river is at low level, the bridge is 49 feet (15 m) above the water, causing it to be raised an average of 200 times per month. As of 2001, the average daily traffic was 30,500 vehicles. The bridge was designed by Waddell & Harrington, which also designed the Steel and Interstate bridges.[1][8] John Alexander Low Waddell invented the modern-day vertical-lift bridge.[1]


The current bridge was built to replace the second Madison Street Bridge, a wooden bridge built in 1900. It cost $511,000 to build[9] and was opened on December 19, 1910.[1][10] Hawthorne Boulevard (and thus the bridge) was named after Dr. J.C. Hawthorne, the cofounder of Oregon's first mental hospital and early proponent for the first Morrison Bridge.[1]

The streetcar tracks across the bridge were originally in the outer lanes,[11] but were relocated to the center lanes in 1931.[12] The deck was changed from wood to steel grating in 1945.[1]

The bridge was yellow-ochre in color from 1964 to 1998. This 1993 photo also shows the original, narrower sidewalks.

In 1985 the lift span sheaves, the grooved wheels that guide the counterweight cables, were replaced. The bridge went through a $21 million renovation from 1998 to 1999, which included replacing the steel grated deck and repainting.[1][13] The original lead-based paint was completely removed and replaced with 3 layers of new paint that is estimated to last 30 years.[14] During this upgrade the sidewalks were widened to 10 feet (3.0 m), making it a thoroughfare for bicycle commuters. Due to the replacement of the steel deck during this project, the channels which used to carry the rails for streetcars and interurban trains were also removed. The bridge was closed for one year to permit the renovation to be carried out.[1]

The original color of the bridge was black, lasting until 1964, when it was repainted yellow-gold ochre.[15] During the 1998–99 renovation, the color was changed to green with red trim.[1]

In 2001, the sidewalks were connected to the Eastbank Esplanade. In 2005, the estimated cost to replace the bridge was $189.3 million.[16]

The 2003 film, The Hunted, included a scene set on MAX on the Hawthorne Bridge. Since MAX does not cross the bridge, the movie company connected two articulated buses remodeled to resemble a MAX train, complete with fake overhead lines and a sprinkler system to simulate rain.[17][18] Light-rail (interurban) service did cross the Hawthorne Bridge until 1956.[19]

The new deck put in place in the outer lanes during the 1998–99 renovation was designed to be strong enough for possible use by modern, heavier streetcars or light rail trains in the future,[20][21] which was proposed at that time,[20] and TriMet was still considering a Hawthorne Bridge routing for its future MAX Orange Line, to Milwaukie, in 2002.[22] However, following the transit agency's later decision to build the Tilikum Crossing for the Milwaukie MAX line, which bridge could also be used by the Portland Streetcar,[23] it became unlikely that rail cars will ever again cross the Hawthorne Bridge.

The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places[24] in November 2012.[5]

Bicycle counter[edit]

In August 2012, an automated real-time bicycle counter was installed on the bridge, the first such counter to be installed in a U.S. city.[25][26] It was purchased by the non-profit group Cycle Oregon for $20,000 and donated to the city.[27][28] The city paid $5,000 for its installation.[29] The millionth rider was counted in July 2013.[30] The counter was broken in 2018 and has not been repaired; no data has been recorded since.[31]

Pop culture references[edit]

  • Elliott Smith mentions the Hawthorne Bridge in the song "I Can't Answer You Anymore."[32]
  • Portland composer, Jack Gabel, sampled tire whines and engine drones of vehicles crossing the bridge to make the musique concrète sound track for his 1987 Artquake/Bumbershoot installation, in collaboration with kinetic artist Bill Will and video artist Kurt Spak, titled AUTO-TOMY
  • The Hawthorne Bridge is mentioned in House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski at bottom of p. 508 during one of Johnny Truant's late journal entries. "Portland. Dusk. Walked under the Hawthorne bridge and sat by the Willamette River."[33][34]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Wood Wortman, Sharon; Wortman, Ed (2006). The Portland Bridge Book (3rd ed.). Urban Adventure Press. pp. 61–68. ISBN 0-9787365-1-6.
  2. ^ Portland Historic Landmarks Commission (July 2014), Historic Landmarks -- Portland, Oregon (XLS), retrieved August 20, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Weekly list of actions taken on properties: 11/13/12 through 11/16/12". National Park Service. November 23, 2012. Retrieved April 24, 2013.
  4. ^ "2011 Bicycle Counts Report" (PDF). Portland Bureau of Transportation. p. 4. Retrieved April 24, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Tims, Dana (November 20, 2012). "Four Multnomah County bridges listed on National Register of Historic Places". The Oregonian. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  6. ^ Wood, Sharon (1989). The Portland Bridge Book (1st ed.). Oregon Historical Society Press. pp. 37–42. ISBN 0-87595-211-9.
  7. ^ "Vertical Lift Bridge". Multnomah County. September 21, 2010. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  8. ^ "Hawthorne Vertical Lift Bridge". Hardesty & Hanover. 2020-05-12. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  9. ^ Smith, Dwight A.; Norman, James B.; Dykman, Pieter T. (1989). Historic Highway Bridges of Oregon. Oregon Historical Society Press. p. 115. ISBN 0-87595-205-4.
  10. ^ "Bridge Declared Open for Traffic". The Morning Oregonian. December 20, 1910. p. 16. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  11. ^ Bottenberg, Ray (2007). Bridges of Portland. Arcadia Publishing. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-7385-4876-0. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  12. ^ "Bridge Open Tomorrow; Repairs of Hawthorne Span Now About Completed". The Oregonian, May 19, 1931, p. 6.
  13. ^ "Hawthorne Bridge Rehabilitation". David Evans and Associates, Inc. Archived from the original on 2008-10-21. Retrieved 2009-02-09.
  14. ^ "Hawthorne Bridge Painting". Multnomah County. Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2006-11-09.
  15. ^ "Portland Voices: Bridge aficionado has answers about Hawthorne colors" (interview with author Sharon Wood). (April 3, 1997). The Oregonian, p. MP-2.
  16. ^ "Hawthorne Bridge Future Needs". Multnomah County. December 2, 2005. Archived from the original on March 16, 2006. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  17. ^ Don Hamilton (March 9, 2001). "Lights, camera, traffic jam: Filming and construction mean more delays". Portland Tribune. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  18. ^ Jennifer Anderson (January 18, 2002). "Shhh! Explosions foil quiet attempt by 'The Hunted' to tiptoe back into town". Portland Tribune. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  19. ^ "Work on [Morrison] Bridge Ramps to Bring Street Closure". The Oregonian, September 13, 1956, p. 1.
  20. ^ a b Stewart, Bill (July 31, 1997). "Streetcars will return to Portland/City will strengthen, repaint Hawthorne Bridge". The Oregonian, p. D1.
  21. ^ "Welcome to the Rose City & NorthWestern: Only in Hollywood do trains still cross Portland's Hawthorne Bridge". TrainWeb. Archived from the original on 2007-12-16. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
  22. ^ Don Hamilton (June 14, 2002). "Tri-Met, Metro study two light rail plans". Portland Tribune. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  23. ^ "Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project Fact Sheet" (PDF). TriMet. December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
  24. ^ Harden, Kevin (November 20, 2012). "Four downtown bridges earn historic honors". Portland Tribune. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  25. ^ "Portland bike counter: Nudging 1 million trips over the Hawthorne Bridge". 17 March 2013.
  26. ^ "First bike counter in U.S. installed on Hawthorne Bridge". Multnomah County. August 8, 2012.
  27. ^ Mayer, James (August 8, 2012). "North America's first bike counter starts work on the Hawthorne Bridge". The Oregonian. Retrieved August 18, 2012.
  28. ^ "First-in-U.S. bike counter installed on Hawthorne Bridge thanks to Cycle Oregon - News - The City of Portland, Oregon".
  29. ^ Peacher, Amanda. "One Less Car, One More Click On The Bike Counter".
  30. ^ "Millionth bicyclist of 2013 set to cross Hawthorne Bridge on Friday - Portland Business Journal".
  31. ^ NewsDesk, 6Park (2021-10-07). "The Hawthorne Bridge bike counter is down, but not out". 6PARK.NEWS/OREGON. Retrieved 2021-10-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  32. ^ "sweet adeline". Retrieved 2011-01-13.
  33. ^ Danielewski, Mark Z. (2000). House Of Leaves (2nd ed.). United States of America: Pantheon. p. 508. ISBN 0-375-70376-4.
  34. ^ "AUTO-TOMY". Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved Dec 13, 2006.

External links[edit]