7 votes

Sellwood Bridge (1925)


Sellwood Bridge

Photo taken by Michael Goff


BH Photo #180059

Street Views 


The Sellwood Bridge, the busiest two-lane bridge in Oregon, is the southern-most span in an ensemble of twelve monumental highway bridges across the lower Willamette River at Portland, Oregon. The only four-span continuous truss in the state, it appears to be an extremely rare bridge type anywhere. Sellwood is also: 1) one of only 215 known truss highway bridges of any type or age surviving in Oregon; 2) one of only five known continuous highway trusses (of any type or span length) in Oregon; and 3) the state's only known highway continuous deck truss.

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) Construction of the replacement bridge has begun as witnessed by our drive over it at the end of August 2014.


Baltimore deck truss bridge over Willamette River on Tacoma Street in Portland
Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon
Replaced by a new bridge
Built 1925: Replaced 2016
- Gilpin Construction (Contractor)
- Gustav Lindenthal of Brno, Cisleithania, Austro-Hungarian Empire (Now known as Brno, South Moravia, Czech Republic) (Chief Engineer)
- Hans H. Rode (Resident Engineer)
- Ira G. Hedrick of West Salem, Illinois (Design Engineer)
- Judson Manufacturing Co. of San Francisco, California. (Steel Fabricator)
Warren deck truss with sub-panels
Length of largest span: 300.0 ft.
Total length: 1,971.0 ft.
Deck width: 24.0 ft.
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Also called
Tacoma Street Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+45.46429, -122.66594   (decimal degrees)
45°27'51" N, 122°39'57" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
10/526115/5034583 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Lake Oswego
Average daily traffic (as of 2010)
Inventory numbers
OR 06879 (Oregon Dept. of Transportation structure number)
BH 29887 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of January 2013)
Overall condition: Fair
Superstructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 2 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • December 19, 2021: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Changed truss design to Warren
  • January 17, 2017: Updated by David Backlin: Updated status to Lost/Replaced
  • February 10, 2015: Photos imported by Dave King
  • October 19, 2014: Updated by Royce and Bobette Haley: Construction of the replacement bridge has begun
  • November 2, 2011: Updated by Nathan Holth: Merged NBI Data
  • September 8, 2010: New Street View added by Michael Goff
  • May 13, 2010: Updated by Nathan Holth: Bridge is slated for replacement.
  • April 20, 2009: Posted HAER photos
  • July 8, 2008: Updated by Michael Goff
  • July 7, 2008: Updated by Michael Goff

Related Bridges 



Sellwood Bridge
Posted June 19, 2013, by Kelly McClanahan (KMCCLA [at] aol [dot] com)

I read about this in the current issue of Popular Science, I found this on their web site. http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-05/bridge-brid...

There is also a video of them moving the bridge.

Sellwood Bridge
Posted August 26, 2012, by jayhawk

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.

Sellwood Bridge
Posted August 26, 2012, by Scott Gavin (Fatpiecat2 [at] charter [dot] net)

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.

Sellwood Bridge
Posted April 30, 2012, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

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.

Sellwood Bridge replacement
Posted April 28, 2012, by Dwainedibbly (Dwainedibbly [at] gmail [dot] com)

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.

Sellwood Bridge
Posted November 2, 2011, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

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=1319849644...