Designer: Waddell & Harrington (Kansas City), 1912
Owned by Union Pacific Railroad, average daily
traffic twenty-three thousand
"The Steel Bridge seems like some sort of medieval gateway in the ramparts of the seawalls." Randy Gragg
The Steel Bridge is a vertically telescoping bridge. That means it can raise a portion of its span vertically and evenly. The Steel Bridge qualifies as the only bridge in the world that is a (drum roll, please) "double-deck telescoping vertical lift bridge." That is to say, both of its levels can be raised vertically. The counterweights are in the bridge towers, and the bridge operator's room is under the machinery house between the two towers.
Trains and pedestrians use the lower deck, which is relatively close to the water. If the river ever rises to flood stages and the bottom level is not raised, the span will be awash in the Willamette. (In 1948, it went five feet underwater.) When the lower deck is raised, it fits nicely into the bottom of the upper deck, which can continue its business of allowing autos, pedestrians, and (as of 1986) the light rail across its span.
* The east-side ramp to the Steel Bridge is owned by the city of Portland. Said ramp had hundreds of cracks in its support structure that were "repaired" with epoxy in 2005.
About that name: The precursor to the Steel Bridge was an 1888 double-deck bridge made of steel. It was called "the Steel Bridge." The "new" Steel Bridge has a complex network of steel trusses; the total weight of all the parts is about nine million pounds.Less Text