Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bridge 5.1

Bridge 5.1


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A few photos of the railroad bridge in St. Johns. The bridge is officially known as "Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge 5.1", the 5.1 being the distance in miles from Union Station. I've always liked this bridge, first because it's so obscure, and secondly because it just looks cool, in a muscular, heavy-industrial sort of way. Just looking at it, you'd never guess the central lift span only dates to 1989. You'd just sort of expect anything build in 1989 to be all mauve and teal and loaded with silly postmodern crap, I mean, "pastiche", and it'd look as dated as parachute pants and big hair.

Bridge 5.1

Anyway, I originally wanted to get closer to the bridge than this, but it's quite hard for mere mortals to get close to it on either side of the river. On the east bank there are, technically, roads down to the vicinity of the bridge, but there are also signs informing you that the whole area is a federal Superfund site. I think it has something to do with creosote manufacturing, which sounds kind of icky to me. I imagine that even if you could get down there as a mere mortal, you might very well leave as something else entirely. Longtime Gentle Reader(s) of this blog have probably noticed how I often say I really go to the mat for you guys, and I think I do on occasion, but I do draw a line at "Superfund". This post on Sprol names the old McCormick & Baxter site as one of the "Worst Places in the World", and talks about what's down there. More at Portland Public Art, believe it or not, since apparently there's some interesting graffiti around the place.

There's been talk of eventually putting a city park on the site, if they can ever get it cleaned up to everyone's satisfaction. Which I think may be a big if. In any event, we'll probably end up with luxury condo towers instead, since that's what always seems to happen.

Bridge 5.1

So I have an idea about the bridge that I've been batting around, and I thought I'd toss it out in case anyone with power and influence happens to read this. A few years ago when the city revamped the Eastside Esplanade across from downtown, they added a pedestrian/bike path to the lower deck of the Steel Bridge, next to but completely separate from the railroad tracks. It might be a good idea to do the same with Bridge 5.1 here. We're forever hearing about how dangerous the St. Johns Bridge is for cyclists, and I'm sure that's true. I once knew a guy whose bike hit some bad pavement on the St. Johns, causing him to crash and break his arm in three places. And it would've been much worse if the semi behind him hadn't swerved out of the way just in time. We're told there's nowhere to put separate bike lanes on the St. Johns, and again, I'm sure that's true. The lanes are narrow as it is, and I don't see how you could safely narrow them any further. What's more, the St. Johns is the only game in town right now if you live up in that part of town and need to cross the river. So wouldn't it make sense to have a safer alternative in place? I'm not a civil engineer, so someone else would have to figure out whether a walk/bikeway is even possible with this bridge, much less how much it'd cost. I'm just saying it sounds like a good idea. Hint, hint.

Bridge 5.1

If you'd like to see some pics that are a bit more professionally done, Portland Bridges has a couple of nice photos of the bridge here and here.

Bridge 5.1

Bridge 5.1

1 comment :

Bill Sharp said...

This is my favorite Portland Bridge and I've painted it a couple of times. You can actually get pretty close to it from the west side. NW Front Ave ends right at the bridge and at the security gate of a wafer plant. The plant has a little park like area right at the foot of the bridge and I've asked the security guard if I could walk in there to paint but was denied. I'll probably be back there again this summer. Every time I go I see a family of black tail deer. They came right up to my truck once.

I believe there are more superfund sites on the west side as well, btw. Something about pesticides and battery casing dumped into a pond. Ahh, the good old days.

Nice pictures.