Wednesday, July 25, 2012

From a Distance: the Fremont Bridge

The Fremont Bridge as seen from the Broadway Bridge

Happy Wednesday, friends! After a brief hiatus, I’m back on the Rose City Wednesday beat, & looking forward to taking you on more virtual tours of my new hometown—new, but amazingly (to me at least), I’m fast approaching the one-year anniversary of my move here.

Last Saturday was one in a succession of lovely summer days we’ve enjoyed lately in Portland—moderate temperatures, mellow sunshine & rich blue skies, & just the gentlest breeze. Given all this wonderfulness, I decided to go for an urban hike, & left my apartment headed west on a walk that ultimately took me all the way to Powell’s Bookstore over on the west side.

The Fremont Bridge seen from lower Mississippi Ave

I saw many sights along the way, but I decided that rather than describing the hike itself in detail, I’d focus on one of those sights: the Fremont Bridge. The route I took along Interstate Avenue & the Broadway Bridge afforded me some of the best possible views of this structure.

Up until now, my Bridgetown posts have always involved walking one of the Portland bridges, but there are some bridges here that aren’t open to pedestrian traffic because they carry interstate highways. The Fremont Bridge is one of those—it carries Interstate 405, which is an exchange of Interstate 5. Technically, it also carries US route 30, as this route is absorbed by 405 along this stretch (or vice-versa, depending on your point of view.) I-405 connects downtown Portland to North Portland & I-5 proper.

Industrial: The Fremont as seen from Interstate Ave
Also as seen from Interstate: with the Montgomery Park building in the background

The Fremont Bridge was constructed in the 1970s, & the intent from the beginning was to create a visually impressive structure, especially in comparison to the more utilitarian Marquam Bridge to the south. The Fremont Bridge opened November 15, 1973.

As you can probably tell from the photos, the Fremont Bridge is a high & imposing structure; so despite being near the mouth of the Willamette, it has plenty of clearance for commercial ship traffic entering Portland.  The clearance below the Fremont is 175 feet. Structurally, it’s a “tied arch bridge,” & I direct you to this Wikipedia entry for an explanation of that—the arched bridge I get—the rest seems a bit arcane to me, but then, it’s still relatively early in the morning as I write this! Also according to Wikipedia: “It has the longest main span of any bridge in Oregon and is the second longest tied arch bridge in the world (after Caiyuanba Bridge across the Yangtze River, China)”

The Fremont Bridge: iconic, with iconic St John's Bridge in the background

Several of the Portland bridges present iconic images of the city—certainly the Hawthorne & Steel Bridge of the ones we’ve already explored—but the Fremont, along with the St John’s Bridge, which I’ve yet to work up nerve enough to walk, are perhaps the most iconic.

That’s all for this week! Next Wednesday I’ll be taking you folks to a unique local arts & crafts show. & if you’re interested in my unique (I think) mixture of baseball, aesthetics & philosophy, please check out my new Beer League Box Score blog!


  1. Lovely bridge images, John.

    I have recurring dreams about the maze of Portland freeways & bridges.....

    1. Thanks, T. They truly are a maze--especially surrounding the Fremont & the Marquam. I took several shots looking up at the I-5 & 405 exchanges, but I didn't think any of them were quite worth posting. But it's something indeed to see.

  2. It's easy to take record breaking bridges for granted. Down the road from here in West Yorkshire there's an unassuming concrete road bridge (Scammonden Bridge) that few people know it's the longest concrete arch bridge in the UK. (it's in Wikipedia too).

    1. Hi Dominic: I looked it up (on Wikipedia, at that)--an impressive structure--thanks!


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