Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cherry Blossom No. 1 (2K12 Edition)

Cherry Blossom No. 1 (2k12 Edition)

As seen at the usual location, the two cherry trees at NW 19th & Lovejoy. That sounds like an absurdly specific place to go look for the year's first cherry blossoms, but it's been true for at least the last 4 years or so.

Cherry Blossom No. 1 (2k12 Edition)

Cherry Blossom No. 1 (2k12 Edition)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Marion Street Bridge

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The next bridge in the ongoing project is Salem's Marion Street Bridge. Built in 1952, it's somewhat more attractive than the Center St. Bridge, but it's still not what I'd call a visual treat. The bridge supports have a sort of pointed arch motif to them, similar to Portland's St. Johns Bridge, but in this case I'm not really sure why. Maybe the designer was just a big fan of pointed arches.

One downside of being built in 1952 is that the pedestrian walkway (there's only one, on the north side of the bridge) is pretty narrow. I tend to assume that midcentury bridges are like this because designers figured nobody would walk anywhere in the future. I can't prove that, but it sounds kind of reasonable to me. Anyway, it's narrower than the Center St. bridge walkway, and walking across is just as noisy due to the heavy traffic. I did a loop starting on the Salem side, across the Center St. and back across the Marion St., and I'd have to say the only reason to do this (other than as your daily commute, I suppose) would be purely for the sake of completeness. I'd be very surprised if this pops up on anyone's list of Top 10 Things To Do In Salem.

Just to verify that, I started searching the net for Top 10 lists about Salem. Here's one, which doesn't mention anything about bridges. It does mention going to Portland as #7 on the list, which seems like cheating to me. It also mentions the A.C. Gilbert museum, which sits next to the west end of the Marion St. Bridge. So you'll at least see the bridge, and maybe even park next to a pointed arch. So there's that. Another Top 10 list is less helpful; it's either auto-generated, or was compiled by someone who'd never been to Salem. As far as it's concerned your options are either guided walking tours (lots of them), or river rafting. And not all of the options are even in Oregon. So you can probably ignore that list. A top 5 list actually mentions a lot more than five things to do. It even shows a covered bridge, and mentions the A.C. Gilbert museum. But again, nothing about Willamette River bridges. So apparently this is our little secret for the time being, o Gentle Reader(s). (We really need to come up with cooler secrets, quite honestly.)

Center Street Bridge

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Today's installment in the ongoing bridge project takes us south to Salem's Center Street Bridge. The present-day bridge is pretty boring; the one semi-interesting detail is that it's the fourth bridge at this location (the part about bridges is somewhat down the page):
  1. Built in 1880, the first Center Street Bridge was the very first bridge over the Willamette River. It was short-lived, however, collapsing during a flood in 1890.
  2. The 1891 replacement was built in a hurry and was considered structurally unsound almost from the day it opened. It still took the city almost 20 years to replace it, however.
  3. The 1918 bridge lasted much longer than its predecessors; it was renovated in 1953 after the Marion St. Bridge opened downstream of it, and was finally demolished in 1969.
  4. The current bridge dates to around 1969 or so. It's actually kind of hard to find reliable information about it. The Wikipedia article makes it sound like the current bridge dates to 1918, even though a quick glance makes it obvious that this isn't the case.

The bridge is four lanes of eastbound traffic, with a pedestrian walkway on the north side, protected from vehicles by a concrete barrier. There's a long spiral ramp up to the bridge from the Salem waterfront, while on the West Salem side the walkway descends into a tangle of highway exits and underpasses. I haven't tried locating the walkway from that side, but I expect it's kind of challenging if you don't already know where it is.

There's suprisingly little to see while walking across the bridge. You see the city's two other bridges downstream, and trees along the riverbanks, and the tops of some low-rise buildings, but Salem is really not oriented toward the river. It hasn't been a commercial port for many decades now, and the idea of chic riverfront cafes doesn't appear to have caught on. Certain Salem-based relatives would argue that the idea of chic anything would have a hard time catching on in Salem -- but I don't live there and I honestly don't know the place that well, so I'm not going to editorialize. I do have a link to pass along though; after the debut of IFC's Portlandia, Salem residents on Twitter began speculating about what a "Salemia" show would be like. The results were pretty amusing, though a bit depressing.

For some reason, one of the conventions around this ongoing bridge project involves warning you about various implausible hazards that might befall you while innocently strolling across the bridge. Based on past history, the most likely candidate would be the city deciding it's time to build the fifth Center Street Bridge, and start demolishing the current one while you're still on it. It's not a city that does anything quickly, though. There's a current proposal out there to build an additional bridge in the greater Salem area, and it'll be years before they'll even break ground on it, if they ever do. So chances are you'll have had plenty of warning -- months or years, probably -- plus I just told you there was a miniscule but nonzero chance it might happen. So can't say you weren't warned.