Underneath the Bridge: Life in Portland, part 1

Portland’s Steel Bridge, like the Morrison Bridge, connects East Portland to West Portland, but this bridge deserves recognition as a destination itself, not just a method of crossing the Willamette. At once powerful and graceful, the architecturally advanced Steel Bridge is the only one of its kind- not only in Portland, but in the world.

First constructed in 1888, the bridge began its life being unusually forward thinking, which strikes me as rather the same spirit Portland enjoys today. Instead of wrought iron, the span was built from steel, and unusual choice for that time and one that earned the bridge its name. Double decked, Steel Bridge served the first railroad crossing over the Willamette. When it was replaced in 1912 (by another Steel Bridge), its use doubled to include passage for automobiles.

Today, Steel Bridge is still an integral part of city transportation, but now its uses have modernized. The double lift bridge is the only double-deck bridge in the world that has independent lifts. Upon the upper deck, cars travel the Pacific Highway West. But any local can tell you this: Portland bridges are worth looking at from every angle, including underneath. In this case, on the lower deck, we find Portland’s light rail (known locally as “the MAX,”) as well as lanes for biking and walking.

Once they’ve grown used to the Steel Bridge, Portlanders seem to be able to cross it daily without stopping to marvel at its beauty and efficacy. I haven't reached that state yet, which is why when we cross it by car, I make my husband (an oregon native) drive. We can use it to travel east to the Rose Quarter to see a Portland Trail Blazers game, or to take in one of many concerts hosted in the Lloyd district.  Going in the reverse direction, the Steel Bridge takes us to Old Town Chinatown, to the waterfront park, and to Saturday Market. On both sides of the bridge are the affordable, vibrant, and family friendly communities that draw so many people to make their homes in Portland, Oregon.

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Photo via Wiki Commons/Steve Morgan

Anna Marie Erwert writes from both the renter and new buyer perspective, having (finally) achieved both statuses. She focuses on national real estate trends, specializing in the San Francisco Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. Follow Anna on Twitter: @AnnaMarieErwert.


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