Sunday, May 29, 2011

OR 219 Bridge, Willamette River

OR 219 Bridge, Willamette River

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This installment of the ongoing bridge project takes us down to Newberg, where we find the Oregon Route 219 bridge over the Willamette River. I'm afraid I only have this one uninteresting photo of the bridge, and it was taken with a Blackberry, from a moving car, in the rain, with a semi tailgating me. The Structurae page linked to above has some photos from the side so you can see it's pretty uninteresting from that angle too. The bridge doesn't appear to have a name, and it doesn't even merit its own Wikipedia page, even though it's the only bridge over the Willamette between Wilsonville and Salem.

Usually when I link to a bridge's Structurae page, I also point at its Bridgehunter page, since each tends to have info the other doesn't. This bridge has no Bridgehunter page, but it turns out Bridgehunter has a sister site,, which describes itself thusly:

This website provides listings for "ugly" bridges not suitable for our companion site, It also highlights the "ugly" condition of our nation's bridges thanks to years of neglect and deferred maintenance.

As you probably guessed from this buildup, this bridge does have an UglyBridges page. So it's a typical, humdrum, non-photogenic concrete deck girder bridge, but there's sort of an upside to that. A recent OSU study of wear and tear on aging concrete deck girder bridges used it as a test subject, presumbably because it was utterly typical. I'm not a civil engineer and it's not clear to me what their conclusions mean in that study. I think they're saying the gathered data will help them better model shear effects on this type of bridge. Not totally sure though. The phrase "significant diagonal cracks" did jump out at me. It's the kind of phrase that tends to jump out at laypeople.

In case you were wondering, it was not possible to walk across this bridge. There are no sidewalks, and much of the traffic consists of extremely large trucks, all of them in a huge hurry to get somewhere. The "not dying" angle is way too obvious and easy to imagine, and not particularly funny either, so instead I'll just pass on one semi-random link I came across, and we'll wrap up this installment of the bridge adventure.

Back in 1993, McMinnville's Evergreen Air Museum had acquired Howard Hughes's infamous Spruce Goose, and had to move it from Santa Barbara, CA, to its new home. This involved disassembling the plane and barging the pieces almost the entire distance. My employer at the time was located right on the Willamette, and I was able to watch as various airplane parts were barged through downtown Portland. Further upriver, the wings were the last major part of the plane to arrive, and they squeaked under the 219 bridge with just one foot to spare.

So that's not really the most exciting story. It was a tight fit, but nothing terrible actually happened, and the rest is vintage aviation history, which I'm not that wild about. But it's the most exciting thing I was able to dig up about this bridge, and now I can at least say that I tried. FWIW.

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