Friday, November 28, 2008

Boone Bridge

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Couple of so-so photos of the Boone Bridge, the I-5 bridge over the Willamette at Wilsonville. Built in 1954, made of concrete, yawn. Even the Structurae page for it is kind of perfunctory, as if even they couldn't get excited about the thing. I figured I ought to at least drop by and take a couple of photos of it for the sake of completeness, as part of the ongoing bridge project. Well, that plus the fact that I was in the neighborhood anyway, unwisely braving the wilds of Fry's Electronics on Black Friday. That part didn't go so well, actually -- I took one look at the checkout line snaking through the store, and decided it wasn't worth it. But at least I got some bridge photos, for whatever that's worth.

Since the Boone Bridge replaced the earlier Boone's Ferry, I thought I'd make a project of it and drive the length of Boones Ferry Road, from Portland down to Wilsonville. That wasn't actually very interesting. Miles and miles of suburbia from start to finish. There's a couple of old buildings in Tualatin, and it turns out there's a rather small and rustic "old town" to Wilsonville, too, along Boones Ferry south of Wilsonville Road.

Boone Bridge, Willamette River

One forgets that until I-5 went in, this was absolutely not a major transportation corridor. Most people used 99E down through Milwaukie, Oregon City, & Canby, and others used 99W, which heads SW out to McMinnville and cuts south from there. The idea of a ruler-straight, non-river-following highway between Portland and Salem is a relatively recent innovation, as it turns out. For some reason, the route of I-5 south from about Tigard runs exactly along the Washington-Multnomah and then Washington-Clackamas county lines. I've never seen a good explanation for why it turned out that way. Was the land cheap? Was it to build political support by splitting the road-building jobs among all 3 metro counties? It's a curious thing, and I don't have a good answer for it.

At the far south end of Boones Ferry Road is Boones Ferry Park, site of the old ferry terminal. That's where I took these, along with a bunch of photos of the nearby railroad bridge. The marina across the river is, I think, the site of the other ferry terminal on the south bank of the river.

Boone Bridge, Willamette River

In theory, I could do the whole schmear and walk the bridge. It's legal, believe it or not, and a few hardy souls (cyclists, mostly) actually use the damn thing. I didn't, at least not this time. Since I can't predict the future all that accurately, I won't absolutely say I never will, but I will say that I probably won't. It looks dangerous, and not the fun kind of dangerous, either. People do this because right now there's no good way to get across the river by bike or on foot, and the only way to go by car is on the freeway. There've been discussions in the past about adding dedicated bike/ped space to either the Boone Bridge or the railroad bridge just upstream, but the preferred approach now seems to be to build a very shiny new bridge just for bikes, pedestrians, and the occasional emergency vehicle. Which is undoubtedly the right approach, if the money exists to do it.

One thing that isn't in the cards, apparently, is building a new bridge for regular auto traffic. My understanding is that the Willamette at Wilsonville is seen as a sort of moat against urban sprawl. A car bridge would cause subdivisions, the theory goes, and if the sprawl monster leaps the Willamette, there aren't any further natural barriers between Portland and Salem. If the line isn't drawn right here, the whole north end of the Willamette Valley inevitably becomes a cold, dreary, repressed version of L.A. I think this is probably the same reason Canby still has a ferry over the river instead of a bridge, even today.

Boone Bridge, Willamette River


Anonymous said...

Too bad you didn't get a chance to try Boones Ferry Road on the other side of the river, where it still looks much as it did before the freeway came in and it was still something of an arterial into the Valley. The French Prairie Bike Bridge would open the old Boones Ferry Road and all of French Prairie/Champoeg to those cyclists who are not willing to risk life and limb on the Boone Bridge. When commuter rail begins in February cyclists will be able to reach Wilsonville via Max and commuter rail from anywhere in the Portland Metro area and with a bike bridge they could very quickly be in French Prairie.

A few additional bits: the marina on the south side of the river is actually a Clackamas County Park, so both landings are currently in public ownership. State Parks would like to see the Bike Bridge connect the Portland Metro area to the Willamette River Bike Trail which comes up from Eugene but now ends at Champoeg for lack of a river crossing.

Wilsonville is asking for regional and federal support to fund the feasibility study and has received support from the BTA, emergency service providers, surrounding communities, and other organizations. The City of Wilsonville is still collecting letters of support through the end of the year to include with our federal request. Since it is much more than a Wilsonville project, we need to be able to show wider area support.

I can email you a photo of the artist's rendering of a possible bridge design and any other info you are interested in.

Anonymous said...

Driving on I5 today, I was pondering why they might have put the highway on the county line(s), and it occurred to me that doing so would be an easy way to make sure the road didn't split any tax lots in two, since, I think, tax lots don't cross county lines. I have no evidence for this theory, mind you.

Anonymous said...

One reason the freeway runs where it does is that a road already existed on the county line, formerly called Meridian Road and now called 65th Avenue. It was easy to build the freeway along the road alignment. In Lake Grove the freeway diverges from Meridian Road / 65th Avenue to skirt what was then a modest commercial intersection. You can see remnants of two relocations of Boones Ferry Road at Lake Grove if you trace its course on a map. Meridian Road's significance is that it runs along the Willamette Meridian, one of the two lines from which nearly all land in Oregon and Washington is measured. (The other is the Base Line, which runs east-west.) Meridian Park Hospital, on the east side of 65th Avenue, takes its name from the old name of Meridian Road.