In addition, Sellwood is one of five Portland spans associated with Gustav Lindenthal during the period 1924-1928 and is among the last bridges of this master American bridge designer's career. A rare example of a Lindenthal highway-only deck truss, Sellwood is made more significant because of its unusually finely subdivided Warren Truss with Verticals, that part of its superstructure and its entire substructure designed by Kansas City engineer Ira G. Hedrick, a one-time partner of J.A.L. Waddell.
The Sellwood Bridge was Portland's first Willamette River bridge to open without a movable span, and was built without trolley tracks and with only one under-sized sidewalk. As such, it was the first major Portland bridge designed almost exclusively for the automobile.
Except for its west end approaches, it remains intact as constructed, with both ends of its superstructure incorporating girders from the 1894 Burnside Bridge--an example of early recycling efforts.
Opened in December 1925--the same month and year as the birth of the modern discipline of geotechnical engineering in the United States--the Sellwood Bridge serves as a precise but ironic benchmark because of extensive damage to its west end approach due to significant movement from one or more landslides.
The sole vehicular crossing of the Willamette River in a ten-mile stretch between Portland and the cities of Oregon City and West Linn, the Sellwood Bridge particularly reflects challenges faced by local agencies charged with maintaining structurally and functionally obsolete bridges into the twenty first century.
(HAER OR-103 - Historical Significance)
At least the replacement will be a good looking steel deck arch.
According to the project website, the west approach has been rebuilt twice - once in 1950 and once in 1980. While the truss is not in the worst of shape, the concrete approach spans will collapse by 2015, according to the engineering firm designing the new bridge.
The deck truss will be moved and used as a detour bridge while the new steel arch is being built and will then be available for reuse.
This bridge was doomed from the beginning. The west end of the span is not anchored in bedrock, but is affixed to a huge boulder slab buried in a prehistoric landslide that is unstable and still moving, slowly, down to the river. Having driven across this bridge, I can tell you that it is also the most dangerous of the Willamette River crossings. It's barely two lanes wide - 1928 lanes, not modern lanes, with a single sidewalk barely wide enough for a skinny person to walk down. With a structural rating of only 2 out of a hundred, it's also likely to be the first one to go down in a major earthquake and it's so high above the river that nobody on the bridge when and if it goes down is likely to survive. The bridge was built on a shoestring and was involved in political corruption at the time of its construction. It might be a special bridge due to its construction and architect, but it's also a hazard to life and limb in my opinion. To be frank about it, this bridge scares me every time I drive across it.
The bridge could have been saved, but officials decided to demolish a Lindenthal masterpiece. The Portland area has, in the past, been considered a major historic bridge destination. It is too bad they have seen fit to begin to tear down this heritage.
The early part of the replacement project has begun. It will be nice to have a new bridge but sad that this historic structure couldn't be saved to be used for non-motorized traffic.
Why preserve a beautiful historic bridge when you can destroy multiple historic structures all at once instead? Demolition prep work included demolishing a historic building that was wrapped around a pier of this bridge. http://www.thebeenews.com/news/story.php?story_id=131984964497562400