Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pics: Steel Bridge

North from Burnside Bridge

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Next up, a few photos of the Steel Bridge, yet another downtown Portland bridge. Most of these photos were taken from the sidewalk on the upper deck of the bridge. Not everyone realizes you can walk across the upper part; the shiny new-ish walkway on the lower deck is wide and convenient, and connects directly with Waterfront Park and the Eastbank Esplanade. The upper deck sidewalks are perfectly fine, but they aren't as convenient, so they don't seem to get a lot of foot traffic. I know I don't go that way very often.

Steel Bridge

That's kind of a shame really; if you're interested in the bridge at all (which I realize is unlikely), you get a better view of it from above. And if you're interested in the view from the bridge (more likely, although still not super-likely), that's better too. There's even a guardrail between you and the cars on the bridge, which is a nice, and unusual, touch. Still, on the east side you're dumped off into the N-dimensional circus that is the Rose Garden transit center, with streets and MAX lines radiating off in all directions, and then some. And on the west side, well, it's Old Town. Which I'm not afraid of, but a lot of people are, and sometimes I admit they might be on to something.

(Note to this humble blog's surprisingly large (i.e. nonzero) UK readership: "Old Town" in the Portland sense means roughly pre-1900. Seriously. Feel free to giggle if you like.)

Railing, Steel Bridge

A few semi-interesting tidbits about the Steel Bridge:

  • It's owned by the Union Pacific railroad, not the city, county, or state. Railroads aren't usually too concerned about aesthetics, which explains a lot about the Steel Bridge. It's a workhorse, not a show horse, as the saying goes. I'm not sure why it's painted black. Maybe they got a good deal on black paint, many years ago. Must've been a one-time deal, if so, since it hasn't been repainted in a very, very long time.
  • The standard bridge links: Structurae, Bridgehunter and PortlandBridges.
  • As the Wikipedia article (above) notes, the lower & upper decks raise independently, which is unique in the world, yeehaw. This relates to the next point:
  • The bridge carries all sorts of traffic. It carries normal road traffic (it was the downtown bridge for US 99, back before I-5 existed), plus MAX trains, heavy rail (including Amtrak service), pedestrians on both the lower & upper decks, and I understand that it even caries a variety of utilities, although I'm not sure which ones. Which leads us to the next point:
  • Thus, the Steel Bridge is probably a great chokepoint for the Evildoers. (If you're an Evildoer, please stop reading now. Thx. Mgmt.) We probably don't have any Evildoers here, but the security industry insists it's a concern, so we might as well have a cow about it. At least that way we'll get our fair share of that dee-licious Homeland Security pork spending.

    Don't believe me? Last October, our fair city played host to something called "TOPOFF4", a Homeland Security shindig that involved a simulated "dirty bomb" attack against the Steel Bridge. (A few stories on that from Indymedia, the Mercury, the Tribune, and OregonLive.) The amusing thing about this is that they actually did the thing up at Portland International Raceway, and just pretended they were at the Steel Bridge. Now, I've been to PIR on numerous occasions, and I can state with authority that there's nothing there that in any way resembles the Steel Bridge. One would think that would be an obstacle, but if you have a Homeland Security-style hyperactive imagination, I suppose anything can stand in for anything else. Invading Iraq can stand in for catching Osama, for example. But I digress. Alternately, well, "TOPOFF" is security-speak for "Top Officials", and this was a bigwig-centric exercise. Which probably meant there was a big freakin' bigwig party at taxpayer expense. Maybe afterwards, but maybe during. Probably everyone got a solid gold "Mission Accomplished" paperweight and a gallon of caviar. That's how these things go, usually. And all those out-of-towners would need to relax after a hard day of manly-man Homeland Security playactin' and simulatin', so naturally there'd be strippers, this being Portland and all. Gotta show the big boys from DC a little local color, right?
  • A fun twist on the security angle involves the huge grain terminal that sits right next door to the bridge. You know, the one that used to have the ginormous ad on it. As it turns out, the common variety of wheat grown here in the Northwest is ideal for making pitas, naan bread, and other varieties of Evildoing baked goods, so a lot of our exports go to various corners of Evildoerstan. On several occasions I've seen grain ships docked here which had the ship's name in both English and Arabic, and at least one listed its home port as Alexandria, Egypt. Which is just one of those things that happens naturally when you're a major seaport, as we occasionally pretend to be, but I'm sure it's ulcer fodder for the security guys.
Steel Bridge All that security theater nonsense leads us to today's obligatory "not dying" angle: When crossing the bridge, by whatever means, try to avoid Evildoers. Especially the ones with WMDs. Domestic Evildoers with mysterious but important-sounding government jobs bear watching as well. You may want keep this advice in mind while crossing other bridges too, if I may be so bold. Steel Bridge Have I mentioned that I've got more photos on Flickr? Well, I do. FWIW. Railing, Steel Bridge Detail, Steel Bridge

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