Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bridgetown #2 – The Broadway Bridge

Welcome, my friends, to another Rose City Wednesday, Bridgetown edition!

Tho the gray skies & drizzle have returned now, we had some glorious weather late last week & into the weekend & I decided to make the most of it on Saturday with an excursion to another nearby bridge—no more chilly & slippery bridge outings for me! Indeed, Saturday was one of the finest days this year, & with only a sport jacket & light clothes I was almost too warm at points along the way.

The Broadway Bridge connects Northeast & Northwest Portland, following the large NE Broadway Avenue thoroughfare across the bridge that bears its name, at which point Broadway (now NW Broadway) veers off at a 45 degree angle southward, while NW Lovejoy continues more or less due west into the rather toney Pearl District.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Fremont Bridge & in the distance, The St John's Bridge-looking north from the Broadway Bridge

I caught the #4 Division bus near my place & got off at NE Vancouver & Weidler. From here it’s an easy downhill walk of about five blocks to the bridge. You could also take any Max line to Rose Quarter & walk from there north on Interstate; it wouldn’t be much further, & in fact that’s what I did in reverse heading home.

Bicyclist approaching the spot where one would stop if the drawbridge were raising

The Broadway Bridge is reported to be one of the more popular bridges for bicycle crossings, & I must say that based on my one walk, this could well be true—the cyclists were out in profusion.  But the walkways on either side of the Broadway Bridge are reasonably commodious, & despite a fair amount of bike traffic, I never felt rushed or inconvenienced. & no doubt due to the fine weather, there were also a fair number of other pedestrians.

Inner structure, plus streetcar wires; this is a more accurate picture of the color--Golden Gate Red, AKA International Orange! The first two photos were shot somewhat into the sun.

The Broadway Bridge was opened in 1913; at the time, it was the longest bascule type bridge in existence (if you follow that last link, you’ll see a gif of how a bascule bridge works.)   Because the bascule mechanism is rather complicated, the Bridge has undergone a number of repairs over the years. However, the most recent work done on the Broadway Bridge (in the summer of 2010) is quite exciting to me as a person who relies almost exclusively on public transit. As you can see in some of the photos, the rails & overhead electrical system of the Portland Streetcar have been installed on the Broadway Bridge, & the Bridge is scheduled to start carrying streetcar traffic this September. This is great news, because it will be the beginning of the eastern expansion of the streetcar system. While the Trimet buses & Max light rail trains run thru all sections of Portland proper & into the suburbs as well, the Streetcar currently only runs on the west side of the city. I’m really looking forward to this change!  Interestingly enough, streetcars did cross the Broadway Bridge from when it was first opened until 1940.

Portland skyline looking southwest (taken from the south walkway)
The Steel Bridge - looking south from the Broadway Bridge

It was a beautiful day, & I feel I took full advantage of it—ended up walking about 20 blocks once I got to the west side until I reached Powell’s; but I confess I was a little wobbly by the time I made it all the way back to the other side. My timing was also good this time around—the clouds just began to come in around 4:00 p.m. just as I was setting foot back on the east side.

Western entrance to the Broadway Bridge


  1. Nice work, John. You certainly have enough bridges to tour for a while!

    1. Thanks! Yes, there are at least 5 others that allow pedestrian traffic--I'm not sure about St John's Bridge. I know the Marquam doesn't, as that's I-5 & I believe the Fremont doesn't either--& not sure I'd want to be up that high even if it did! I know the bridges over the Columbia aren't open to pedestrians, because they carry interstate highways.

  2. I see that tantalizing "go by train" sign at what must be the Amtrak station.

    1. Yes, indeed, Jacqueline! That is the very tantalizing Union Station.


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