The Steel Bridge in Portland, Oregon is an iconic symbol of the city’s history and infrastructure, having been built in 1912. Constructed of steel, the bridge is a double-deck, vertical-lift bridge that spans the Willamette River and is a key transportation link for both vehicles and pedestrians. It connects the east and west sides of the city.
Engineer John Alexander Low Waddell was responsible for the design of the Steel Bridge, as well as the Smithfield Street Bridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His bold design for the Steel Bridge included a vertical-lift span, allowing for the bridge to adjust to the increasing size of river traffic while providing a clear passage for larger ships. The lift span can be raised to a height of 200 feet, providing ample clearance.
The Steel Bridge was built during a period of immense transformation and expansion in Portland. The city was skyrocketing in size and becoming an essential shipping and transportation hub, and the Steel Bridge played an essential role in this development. The bridge’s construction was a titanic effort that necessitated the work of thousands of workers and the use of advanced technology for the time. When it was finished, the Steel Bridge was the longest vertical-lift bridge in the world, and it held that distinction until the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge in New York was constructed in 1959.
Throughout the years, the Steel Bridge has gone through several renovations and revamps to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the city. In the 1950s, its original wooden pathway was substituted with a metallic grid deck, and in the 1980s, the bridge underwent a massive overhaul which included the instalment of new electronic and mechanical systems. At present, the Steel Bridge remains a pivotal part of Portland’s transportation infrastructure, conveying thousands of pedestrians and vehicles across the Willamette River every day. It is a testimony to the city’s commitment to always staying up to date with its transportation needs.
The Steel Bridge of Portland, Oregon is much more than a practical structure. It has become a beloved emblem of the city’s history and identity,
thanks to its distinct design and bright blue colour. The bridge is often featured in postcards and photographs of the area and has played host to many memorable events and celebrations, such as the Portland Rose Festival and the Portland Bridge Pedal. During the Pedal, participants have the opportunity to bike across some of Portland’s most iconic bridges, including the Steel Bridge.