Sunday, January 22, 2012

Center Street Bridge

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Today's installment in the ongoing bridge project takes us south to Salem's Center Street Bridge. The present-day bridge is pretty boring; the one semi-interesting detail is that it's the fourth bridge at this location (the part about bridges is somewhat down the page):
  1. Built in 1880, the first Center Street Bridge was the very first bridge over the Willamette River. It was short-lived, however, collapsing during a flood in 1890.
  2. The 1891 replacement was built in a hurry and was considered structurally unsound almost from the day it opened. It still took the city almost 20 years to replace it, however.
  3. The 1918 bridge lasted much longer than its predecessors; it was renovated in 1953 after the Marion St. Bridge opened downstream of it, and was finally demolished in 1969.
  4. The current bridge dates to around 1969 or so. It's actually kind of hard to find reliable information about it. The Wikipedia article makes it sound like the current bridge dates to 1918, even though a quick glance makes it obvious that this isn't the case.

The bridge is four lanes of eastbound traffic, with a pedestrian walkway on the north side, protected from vehicles by a concrete barrier. There's a long spiral ramp up to the bridge from the Salem waterfront, while on the West Salem side the walkway descends into a tangle of highway exits and underpasses. I haven't tried locating the walkway from that side, but I expect it's kind of challenging if you don't already know where it is.

There's suprisingly little to see while walking across the bridge. You see the city's two other bridges downstream, and trees along the riverbanks, and the tops of some low-rise buildings, but Salem is really not oriented toward the river. It hasn't been a commercial port for many decades now, and the idea of chic riverfront cafes doesn't appear to have caught on. Certain Salem-based relatives would argue that the idea of chic anything would have a hard time catching on in Salem -- but I don't live there and I honestly don't know the place that well, so I'm not going to editorialize. I do have a link to pass along though; after the debut of IFC's Portlandia, Salem residents on Twitter began speculating about what a "Salemia" show would be like. The results were pretty amusing, though a bit depressing.

For some reason, one of the conventions around this ongoing bridge project involves warning you about various implausible hazards that might befall you while innocently strolling across the bridge. Based on past history, the most likely candidate would be the city deciding it's time to build the fifth Center Street Bridge, and start demolishing the current one while you're still on it. It's not a city that does anything quickly, though. There's a current proposal out there to build an additional bridge in the greater Salem area, and it'll be years before they'll even break ground on it, if they ever do. So chances are you'll have had plenty of warning -- months or years, probably -- plus I just told you there was a miniscule but nonzero chance it might happen. So can't say you weren't warned.

1 comment :

Samuel Klein said...

I wonder if you, as I, find it interesting and remarkable that the three principal Willamette Valley river cities that are not Portland or Eugene - Salem, Corvallis, and Albany, of course - all follow the same bridging pattern: A major one-way couplet exiting downtown over the river (Salem-Marion and Center Streets, Albany-Ellsworth and Lyon Streets, Corvallis-Van Buren Street and Harrison Boulevard) on two bridges which merge into one major highway (Hwy 22, US 20, and Hwy 34, respectively).

To me, this expresses a character about the three towns that bond them as closer in nature than any commonality any of the three share with Oregon's first and second towns.