Saturday, March 15, 2014

Hood River Bridge

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Here's my one and only photo from the Hood River Bridge, which spans the Columbia River between Hood River OR and White Salmon/Bingen WA.

It's a toll bridge for vehicles, and bikes and pedestrians aren't allowed at all. It's not because the Port of Hood River hates bikes or pedestrians; the bridge is quite narrow, with an open grate bridge deck and no sidewalks at all. They recently studied what it would take to add a pedestrian walkway to the bridge, either cantilevered off to one side, or possibly below the main deck. The study concluded the bridge likely can't support any additional weight without reinforcing the bridge supports, and its design makes it difficult to widen. They came up with a rough estimated price tag of around $10 million, money the port doesn't currently have. The study mentions the deficiencies of the bridge beyond the pedestrian problem, namely that it's too narrow for modern vehicles, such that vehicles are always banging into it, and it's well past its original design lifetime of 75 years. Replacing the current bridge was estimated at around $250 million, with the caveat that money for a new bridge isn't likely to be available anytime soon, given the two states' many other transportation priorities.

Back when I was doing Willamette River bridges, a key part of the project was to walk across each one and take some photos, where possible (i.e. not railroad bridges). I even got the Marquam & Fremont bridges by signing up for the Portland Bridge Pedal a few years ago. And when I started thinking about Columbia River bridges, the Interstate and Glenn Jackson were both walkable. It occurs to me now that those two might be the only walkable Columbia bridges until the Cable Bridge, way off in the Tri-Cities. The Astoria-Megler Bridge bans pedestrians except for a once-a-year fun run. I've considered doing the bridge pedal thing and signing up just so I can take some photos. But Astoria's a long drive and I haven't gotten around to it. The Hansen Bridge + Westport Ferry combo is supposed to be doable by bike. There's also a long walk across Puget Island between the two water segments if you're going that way by foot. The Bridge of the Gods is actually part of the Pacific Crest Trail, and as I recall they charge 50 cents to cross the bridge on foot. You'd be walking on the main roadway, though (because again, no sidewalks), with the usual open grate deck so you can see the river churning along beneath your feet. As I recall the bridges at The Dalles and Biggs/Maryhill are in the same boat as the Hood River bridge: Old, narrow, no sidewalks, no pedestrians or bikes. East of there I'm not so sure. I seem to recall the I-82 bridge is without sidewalks, anyway, and the Cable Bridge definitely has them. The ones in between I'm not so sure about. It's possible a road trip is required here...

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