Saturday, September 13, 2014

SW Barbur/Multnomah Viaduct

I recently ran across ODOT's 2013 Historic Bridge Field Guide, which lists bridges the state thinks are "significant" somehow, broken down by county. Part 4 covers Multnomah County, and it includes a number of obscure structures I wasn't familiar with or had never paid any attention to. Case in point, SW Barbur crosses over Multnomah Boulevard on a kinda-historic overpass, built in 1935. I've driven over it countless times but never gave it a second thought until now. The state's description of it:

Description: Three span continuous reinforced concrete deck girder bridge with a 70-ft maximum span on a 47-degree skew. The bridge originally crossed over the Oregon Electric Railway.
Alterations: The railway was replaced by Multnomah Blvd, changing the context of the bridge.

The pdf also includes a photo of a plaque on the viaduct, which reads:


Built under co-operative agreement by
The United States Bureau of Public Roads
Oregon State Highway Commission

C.J. Montag

The old Oregon Electric Railway tracks were removed to make room for Multnomah Boulevard not long after the bridge here was built. A news article from October 1948 indicates the road was being built at that time, so rail service must have ended at some point before that. Further west, a long stretch of the former Oregon Electric line was reused as part of the westside MAX Blue Line, and another stretch of track now carries the WES commuter train.

The Oregon Electric system was an entirely different system than the competing Southern Pacific Red Electric, which crossed the West Hills just south of Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. The Red Electric right-of-way wasn't replaced by a new road after service ended, and in recent years parts of it have ended up as much-needed neighborhood hiking trails.

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