Monday, September 08, 2008

Pics: Broadway Bridge

Broadway Bridge

Broadway Bridge


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Yes, kids, it's bridge time again. I realize I said earlier that I probably wasn't going to include some of the downtown bridges in the ongoing bridge-meandering project, on the grounds that lots of people walk and bike over them every day, everybody takes photos of them, and therefore they aren't "interesting".

Then I figured, hey, I've already got a bunch of photos of most of them, and they're right here, and I'm unfortunately rather big on doing stuff for the sake of completeness. And really the hard part about a bridge post is the research, not the photos or the walking. I doubt there's any groundbreaking new research to be done on most of the downtown bridges, and I'm not that keen on doing any, so by dropping that it ought to make it relatively simple to complete the set, so to speak. In that spirit, here are a few photos of the Broadway Bridge.

Broadway Bridge

The Broadway comes up a bit short in the grace and grandeur departments, if you ask me, although the latticework looks kind of cool in a steampunk sort of way. And it's a nice color, you gotta give it that.

Broadway Bridge

Counterweight, Broadway Bridge

The main interesting thing about the Broadway is that it's of an unusual design, something called a "double-leaf Rall-type bascule". Which, as Multnomah County's page about the bridge explains, is a type of drawbridge where the 1250 ton counterweight and most of the drawbridge mechanism sits above the bridge deck. We're told it's the longest remaining bridge of its type in existence, and furthermore it's one of only three remaining in the country.

When they say the design is rare, what they mean is that it's an evolutionary dead end, and for good reason. It seems our fair city did the usual Oregon thing, and picked the design that was cheapest in the short term. As it often does, that turned out to mean that the bridge was very expensive to maintain in the long term. And finding spare parts when it breaks down? Not so easy.

Also, the complex design means it opens and closes verrrrry slowwwwwly. If you know anyone whose daily commute includes the Broadway, ask them about it sometime. They'll either get livid about it and turn the same shade of red as the bridge, or they'll smile and tell you what a Zenlike experience it is. The former possibility is the more likely of the two.

Broadway Bridge

Incidentally, the bridge used to be one of those scary open steel grate designs, which are, uh, challenging when wet, and become an, um, advanced challenge when icy. After the recent renovation, the new bridge deck is made of something called FRP, or "fiber-reinforced polymer". Which I think means plastic. Really strong plastic. I hope. The material's manufacturer notes that the Broadway now has "the largest movable FRP vehicular bridge deck in the world." Take that, Seattle! Ha!

Broadway Bridge

I don't know which gets more bike traffic, the Broadway or the Hawthorne, but it does seem that cyclists on the Broadway are much more determined about it, and they're going a lot faster. So if you happen to be an itinerant blogger with a camera, or a photographer with a blog, and you decide to stop and take a photo of something, you'll want to be aware of your surroundings. Everyone on the bridge except you is going with the flow, and you're just standing around dawdling and making an obstacle of yourself. It's not really a "not dying" angle, but there is a real potential for bodily harm. So pay attention. Trust me on this.

Broadway Bridge

A couple of other links:
Broadway Bridge

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