Due to its location on the Willamette River near its confluence with the Columbia, Portland has a fine collection of architecturally impressive bridges. From the very photogenic and Instagrammble to structures that have more of a practical purpose, here are the best bridges in Portland, Oregon…
1. Tilikum Crossing – the largest car-free bridge in the United States
Set across the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, Tilikum Crossing is the cable-stayed bridge known as the Bridge of the People and serves public buses, bicycles, pedestrians, the Portland Streetcar, and emergency vehicles. Personal automobiles and other private motor vehicles are not allowed on the bridge. Tilikum Crossing has expanded the capacity of Portland’s transportation system.
The recent addition of extra crossings allows commuters from the Central Eastside to travel to school, PSU, OHSU, and the Chinatown Metro area with ease. Other bridges experience less stress on their traffic as a result.
The bridge is popular for its aesthetically pleasing lighting at night, where more than 170 LED lights synergistically burn to create the best-lighted cable-stayed designed bridge in Portland.
2. St. John’s Bridge – an iconic and very photogenic steel suspension bridge that spans the Willamette River
The St. John’s bridge was constructed in Portland in 2005 and since has remained a significant structure with three main, fixed spans and twelve approach spans. The bridge carries the traffic of the US-30 bypass over the Willamette River and is approximately 1100 m long and 13 m wide.
This historic bridge was designed by Robinson and David Steinman. At the time of its completion, the St. John’s bridge had the longest suspension span. The structure of the bridge comprises solid steel reinforcements which are unusual considering the bridge was built in a period when this structure wasn’t at all common.
One of the most breathtaking bridges in the country, this footbridge exhibits the very best traits of bridge design. Its beauty derives not from superficial décor, but from the quality of the structural pieces that contribute to the bridge’s elegance.
3. Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge – a vertical lift bridge that spans the Willamette River
The Burlington Northern Railroad bridge is an engineering marvel and the largest bridge to be built on Willamette. The bridge enjoys being a world record-holder for having the longest, single-span drawbridge at that time.
The Burlington bridge, unlike others decorated with colorful lighting and other fancy adornments, goes unnoticed by most people due to its simplistic steel exterior. You’ve most likely been on the bridge without realizing it’s no short of a mechanical wonder put in place by man.
The Burlington bridge goes by several names such as BNSF Railway Bridge 5.1, the Willamette River Railroad Bridge, or the St. Johns Railroad Bridge. The bridge doesn’t connect any railroads but simply provides a route through the Willamette River in Portland. The industrial-age beauty and the vertical lift are features of the Burlington bridge that make it so great.
3. Fremont Bridge – a steel tied-arch bridge that is one of the most recognizable bridge in Portland
The Fremont Bridge in Oregon’s Portland is a steel-arched bridge over the Willamette River. It meets with Interstate 5 and carries the heavy traffic coming off Interstate 405 and US 30 North Portland and downtown. The bridge is at an incredible height of 116 m above the Willamette River and has a total river-spanning length of 695 m. The bridge features a tied-arch style and is crafted out of high-quality steel and metal.
The Fremont bridge enjoys the status of being the largest tied-arch bridge in Portland. The bridge is only open to vehicles, making it a no-option for cyclists and pedestrians due to its unique design.
5. Broadway Bridge – a striking rall-type bascule bridge spanning the Willamette River
The broadway bridge is a Rall-type bascule bridge that spans the Willamette River in Portland. Only approximately 50 Rall-type bascule bridges like this are in existence in the world, and one of the most significant and largest ones is situated here in Portland.
This particular Rall-type bascule design came from an East Indian technique for bridge construction; this structure resembles more of a drive-through burger joint than a Rall on your way to NW broadway.
You can either walk over the bridge, drive a car, ride a bicycle or take a streetcar. The historical integrity of the original spans of this bridge appears well-preserved, along with the materials, building, and design. The western end of the original bridge at one time had a Pratt through truss span that was destroyed and replaced with what appears to be a ramp on the good old Lovejoy Street.
6. Burnside Bridge – a 1926-built bascule bridge that spans the Willamette River
The Burnside Bridge is another bascule bridge that dates back to 1924 when it was first built. The burnside bridge also spans the Willamette River and carries the traffic from Burnside street- the busiest and the longest street in all of Portland. There are five vehicle lanes and two bike lanes, making a total of seven lanes altogether on the bridge.
More than 40,000 vehicles cross the Burnside Bridge each day. The approximate length of the Burnside bridge is 2241 feet and the width averages at 86 feet. Burnside plays a vital function during emergencies due to its vital role in routine transportation. Burnside Street and Bridge are designated as official emergency response routes by the local authorities.
The Burnside bridge retains most of its originality since it hasn’t been remodeled or gone through any significant changes since its construction. It’s an essential route on the busy road and relieves the majority of the traffic on other routes and especially Burnside street.
7. Steel Bridge – a double-deck vertical-lift bridge across the Willamette River
Steel bridge is another significant landmark and one of the oldest bridges in Portland. It has been around since 1912. Steel bridges were first used in the middle of the 19th century. It is a single-span design and carries three lanes of traffic. It is a part of the Steel Bridge Trail which is a bike and pedestrian connection that spans from the Steel Bridge to the Rose Quarter.
The ride on the Steel Bridge is a great experience for the riders. Due to the vastness of the bridge, the drive or the ride is always very smooth and doesn’t trap very many people. The ride through the bridge is also very scenic since it spans the Willamette River and offers great views from its site.
The structural design of the steel bridge is called a through truss. It’s a double-deck bridge with a vertical lift and doesn’t have a drawbridge.
8. Hawthorne Bridge – the oldest vertical-lift bridge in operation in the USA
The Hawthorne bridge is another truss bridge with a vertical lift and connects Madison Street and Hawthorne Boulevard. The total length of the bridge is 421 m and has a clearance below it of 15 m.
The bridge is probably the oldest bridge in Portland since it first opened in 1910. The bridge is open to pedestrians since there’s a pedestrian walk and to bikes, vehicles, and streetcars alike.
9. Morrison Bridge – was Portland’s first bridge
The bridge crosses the Willamette River on the southern edge of Downtown Portland, Oregon, United States. It was the longest and busiest railroad bridge in the Pacific Northwest, carrying 29 miles (47 km) of track over the river.
The Morrison Bridge is a bascule design bridge and it consists of a unique design with a main span of 1,099 feet (334 m) and a total length of 4,178 feet (1,287 m). The bridge was originally constructed in 1927 and is the oldest of the two major bridges between North Portland and Downtown Portland.
10. Marquam Bridge – a double-deck, steel-truss cantilever bridge
The Marquam Bridge is the busiest bridge in all of Oregon and carries the traffic of more than 140,000 vehicles on a daily basis. The Marquam bridge carried the traffic from Interstate 5. The bridge lacks the aesthetics that other bridges in Portland do, with a lack of adequate lighting that make the aesthetics of most other bridges.
However, it beats all others in terms of functionality by providing a route across the Willamette Rivers on the busiest routes in Oregon. The Marquam bridge does not have any bike lanes or pedestrian lanes.
11. Ross Island Bridge – a rare example of a Lindenthal highway-only deck truss
The Ross Island Bridge is an extension of US route 26 and provides a way across the Willamette River in Portland. It is a basic truss bridge but is substantially large with a length of 3,729 ft (1137 m) and a clearance underneath it of 121 ft (37 m) so even the largest cargo ships can pass through easily.
The Ross Island Bridge is a Cantilever bridge that was constructed in 1926. It has been a pretty accessible route and preferred route of travel between Southeast and Southwest Portland.