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Portland Then/Now: Morrison Bridge

Thursday, July 16, 2015

 

Morrison Bridge

Morrison Bridge looking west, 1963,City of Portland Archive: A2004-001.1001

Morrison Bridge

Morrison Bridge looking west, July, 2015. Photo by Byron Beck.

Portland Then/Now: Morrison Bridge 

THEN: The Morrison Bridge has long been an important connection, linking downtown Portland to the inner Southeast side of the city for more than a century. 

According to Multnomah County there were two other bridges that crossed this particular span before our most current one.

The two other Morrison bridges—built in 1887 and 1905—preceded the current six-lane structure. The 1887 bridge was Portland’s first Willamette River bridge. According to the county our current Morrison Bridge was "completed in May of 1958, and was originally designed to link Morrison Street, Belmont Street and Water Avenue on the east side to Washington, Alder and Front Streets on the west. In 1961, a series of ramps were added to connect Interstates 5 and 84 to the bridge, making it a major transportation corridor. The county continues, “sleek in design...the Morrison Bridge marked the advent of freeways and faster cars in the Portland area.” 

NOW: The Morrison, smack dab in the middle of two intersecting Interstate freeways, I-5 and I-84, carries 50,000 vehicles daily. The county indicates The Morrison Bridge main river structure consists of two 237’-9" steel deck truss side spans and a 284' 6" double-leaf Chicago-type bascule draw span, for a total bridge length of 760 feet. The bridge accommodates six lanes of traffic. Vertical clearance of the closed bascule span is adequate for the majority of river traffic, with openings necessary only about 30 times per month. 

Recent modifications have included replacing the lift span deck in 2011, adding a bike and pedestrian path on the south side, and overlaying the east approaches.  

On the downside it has been widely reported that a multi-million-dollar surface project on the Morrison Bridge in 2012 that was supposed to last for 30 years continues to have major structural and surface problems. The county was awarded $4.4 million in damages in March of 2015 to replace the problematic decking that started to fall apart not long after it was installed in 2012. 

One of the more unique features that hasn’t changed is the light show that illuminates the bridge nightly and is orchestrated but the Willamette Light Brigade. 

 

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