Because the Willamette River bisects Portland on its way to meeting the Columbia River, the city needs a lot of bridges – and most of them are drawbridges to allow boat traffic. Here are the bridges of Portland, listed from north to south.
St Johns Bridge
Built in 1931, this steel suspension bridge with dual Gothic-style towers is the tallest bridge in Portland. The bridge is a National Historic Landmark. State Hwy 30B begins at the west end of the St Johns Bridge, and it heads east across the bridge in the direction of the airport.
I-405 crosses the Willamette on the Fremont Bridge, which is tall enough that it does not need to open for bridge traffic. Built in 1973, it is both the longest bridge in Oregon and the second longest tied-arch (“rainbow”) bridge in the world. The bottom span is 175 feet above the river, so it doesn’t require opening for river traffic.
[Read more about the Fremont Bridge.]
Built in 1911-12, the Broadway Bridge connects NW Broadway St and NW Lovejoy St with NE Broadway St on the east side. It’s a Rall-type double-leaf bascule, and it’s the most complicated drawbridge to open. Average opening times on the other bridges are 5-8 minutes, but the Broadway requires 20 minutes or more. The vertical height is such that it only needs to open about 25 times per month. The bridge carries 30,000 vehicles per day.
[Read more about the Broadway Bridge.]
Built in 1912, the Steel Bridge is a bi-level bridge with rail, pedestrian, bicycle, and road traffic. The bridge is maintained by the Union Pacific Railroad.
Burnside Road, the dividing line between North and South in Portland, crosses the river on the Burnside Bridge. Built in 1926, it carries 40,000 vehicles per day, as well as 2,000 pedestrians and bicyclists. Burnside Street and Bridge are designated as an official emergency transportation route, which required that the bridge receive a seismic retrofit against earthquake damage. It was the first Willamette bridge to be designed by an architect, and it features distinctive Italian Renaissance towers. The drawbridge mechanism (the “bascule”) was designed by Joseph Strauss, who built the Golden Gate Bridge 11 years later. Two concrete counterweights weigh 1,900 tons each.
[Read more about the Burnside Bridge.]
The Morrison Bridge, built in 1958, is a Chicago-type double-leaf bascule draw span. It’s actually the third bridge in this spot, with previous incarnations being built in 1887 and 1905. With ramps that connect Interstates 5 and 84, this bridge carries 50,000 vehicles every day. The bridge features a system of LED architectural lights that can illuminate the river piers in a wide variety of colors. Vertical clearance on the bridge is enough for the majority of boats, but it still opens about 30 times per month. The bridge has two concrete counterweights weighing 950 tons each that can be lowered to raise the lift span leafs. This bridge is the largest mechanical device in Oregon!
[Read more about the Morrison Bridge.]
One of Portland’s busiest bridges, the Hawthorne Bridge connects SW Madison St on the west side with SE Hawthorne Blvd on the east side of the river. The country’s oldest operating vertical lift bridge was built in 1910, and the counterweights each weigh 450 tons. Daily traffic consists of 30,000 motor vehicles (including 800 buses) and 8,000 bicycles. Because its vertical clearance is lower than the other bridges, it requires around 200 openings per month.
[Read more about the Hawthorne Bridge.]
I-5 crosses the Willamette on the Marquam Bridge, just below the south end of Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The bridge is tall enough that it does not require raising for river traffic.
Tilikum Crossing: Bridge of the People is the largest car-free bridge in the United States. Tilikum Crossing has designated tracks for trains and streetcars that run in the center of the bridge, as well as pedestrian and bicycle lanes on both sides of the bridge. No cars are allowed! This bridge lights up in different colors at night based on the water temperature (and the season).
[Read more about Tilikum Crossing]