Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Bridges: St. Johns Bridge

See lots of Sunday Bridges here.

A US Navy ship crossed underneath the St. Johns Bridge on the Willamette River, June 9, 2011, during Rose Festival Fleet Week.

Carries U.S. Route 30 Bypass
Crosses Willamette River
Locale Portland, Oregon
Maintained by Oregon DOT
Design Suspension bridge, Art Deco
Total length 2,067 ft (630 m)
Longest span 1,207 ft (369 m)
Clearance below 205 ft (62 m)
Opened June 13, 1931

From Wikipedia:

The St. Johns Bridge is a steel suspension bridge that spans the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, USA, between the St. Johns neighborhood and the northwest industrial area around Linnton. It is the only suspension bridge in the Willamette Valley and one of three public highway suspension bridges in Oregon. It is also the farthest north of any bridge on the Willamette.

The bridge has two 408 ft (124 m) tall Gothic towers, a 1,207 ft (368 m) center span and a total length of 2,067 ft (630 m). The adjacent park and neighborhood of Cathedral Park, Portland, Oregon are named after the Gothic Cathedral-like appearance of the bridge towers. It is the tallest bridge in Portland, with 400 ft (122 m) tall towers and a 205 ft (62 m) navigational clearance.
By 2001, average traffic on the bridge was 23,800 vehicles/day.


Designed by internationally renowned engineer David B. Steinman (1886-1960) and Holton D. Robinson, of New York, the St. Johns was the longest suspension-type bridge west of the Mississippi River at the time of construction. It is the only major highway suspension bridge in the Willamette Valley and one of only three major highway suspension bridges in Oregon.

At the time of the proposal to build the bridge, the area was served by a ferry that carried 1000 vehicles a day. The proposal for a bridge was initially met with skepticism in Multnomah County, since St. Johns and Linnton were over five miles (8 km) from the heart of the city, and local business owners had minimal political clout. But after a lobbying effort that included a vaudeville-style show performed at grange halls and schools throughout the county, voters approved a $4.25 million bond for the bridge in the November 1928 elections. Initially a cantilever bridge was proposed, but a suspension bridge was selected due to an estimated $640,000 savings in construction costs.

The construction of the bridge began a month before the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and provided many county residents with employment during the Great Depression. Because of its proximity to the Swan Island Municipal Airport, some government officials wanted the bridge painted yellow with black stripes. County officials waited until St. Patrick's Day 1931 to announce that it would be painted green.

Dedication of the bridge was put off for one month in order to make it the centerpiece of the 23rd annual Rose Festival. It was dedicated on June 13, 1931, and during the ceremony, the bridge engineer, David B. Steinman said: "A challenge and an opportunity to create a structure of enduring beauty in the God-given wondrous background was offered us when were asked to design the bridge. It is the most beautiful bridge in the world we feel.”

The bridge was built within 21 months and one million dollars under budget. At the time of its completion, the bridge had:
the highest clearance in the nation, the longest prefabricated steel cable rope strands, the tallest steel frame piers of reinforced concrete, the first application of aviation clearance lights to the towers, and longest suspension span west of Detroit, Michigan.

In the summer of 1949, 15-year-old high school student Thelma Taylor was abducted and held by her captor, Morris Leland, under the east side of the bridge (which was undeveloped at the time, now the location of Cathedral Park, Portland, Oregon), and was eventually murdered there. The crime shocked the city and her killer was apprehended and put to death.

It was not until the Marquam Bridge in 1966 that another non-movable bridge would be built in Portland.

By the 1970s, the bridge had been allowed to deteriorate, and cash-strapped Multnomah County asked the state to take over maintenance. Initially, the state declined, since it was also suffering from a lack of funds. But pressure from an association of county governments forced the state government to take it over on August 31, 1975. A county official estimated the move saved them $10 million during the first ten years of state maintenance.

In summer 1987, General Motors filmed the introductory commercial for the 1988 Buick Regal in Portland, Oregon and vicinity, including the St. John's bridge, the Astoria-Megler Bridge, and on the Columbia Gorge.

Portions of the east approaches and east span were repainted beginning in 1987 and completed in 1994. In 1999 the Oregon Department of Transportation announced a $27 million rehabilitation project that began in March 2003 and was completed in the fall of 2005. Included in the project was replacement of the deck, repainting of the towers, water-proofing the main cables, lighting upgrades, and improving access for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. By November 2004, renovation costs soared to $38 million, due mostly to the need to replace nearly half of the 210 vertical suspender cables. During the project, the bridge sidewalks were closed at all times. In addition, the entire bridge was closed at night and continuously for a month. The newly refurbished bridge was rededicated on September 17, 2006.

In Pop Culture

In the film Pay It Forward, Jerry (James Caviezel), a homeless man who was the first person helped by Trevor (Haley Joel Osment), talks a woman out of jumping off the St. Johns Bridge.


Kate said...

The bridge has an interesting and unusual history! It's a fun photo with the ship beneath it.

Small City Scenes said...

Seeing this bridge brings back memories of when I lived in Portland during my childhood. MB

VioletSky said...

This bridge must be awfully high to allow that ship to pass underneath!

Francisca said...

From the angle your photo was taken, it almost looks like the suspension bridge was not high enough to let the navy ship through. Good timing! Good thing the government decided to build it at a time when jobs were desperately needed... Oh! Sounds familiar...! ;-)

Gerald (Hyde DP) said...

just a few inches clearance - excellent shot

alex said...

what a beautiful bridge, with an equally beautiful history. and that is some serious clearance.

Al said...

That is a beautiful bridge indeed, and I enjoyed reading its history. It's shocking that the state would consider letting a bridge like this deteriorate.

Anonymous said...

I like the details on the bridge, especially the peaks on the towers and the 'little' curved parts where the road meets the tower.

parker said...

An important bridge in the making of Portland. Liked your pic of it alot!

Randy said...

Interesting post and great photo!

Louis la Vache said...

Fantastic Sunday Bridges post, Lynette!

«Louis» appreciates all the detail you included.

jess in portland said...

Everytime I drive by St. Johns Bridge, i'm in awe of it's beauty. It's a magnificent bridge.

Linnea said...

What a lovely bridge, even better with the ship passing under it! Thanks for stopping by at my bridge.

TJ said...

Having lived on the hill next to this bridge for 15 years, I can assure you there is a ton of clearance... it is just an interesting camera angle. This bridge is extremely tall. We saw giant cruise ships pass under it!