The Broadway Bridge

Bridge Stats


When it opened in 1913 the Broadway was the city’s first bascule span bridge and the longest one in the USA. It was designed for both rail and vehicular traffic by internationally famous Ralph Modjeski. It is still exceptional because of the rare Rall mechanism which is mounted beneath the top of the adjoining spans. This mechanism rolls the 297-foot central span laterally to provide 250′ of waterway clearance. The top of the central span is also remarkable due to its dipping “saddle”, rather than arcing, shape. Perhaps its most immediately noticeable feature is its “Golden Gate Red” paint job.

The Broadway Bridge was the farthest bridge downstream (north) in Portland when it opened and the last bridge built by the city because a 1913 state law transferred “responsibility for construction, operation, and maintenance … to Multnomah County.” (The Portland Bridge Book).

In 1927 a concrete deck slab replaced the original timber plank deck on the approach spans. In 1948 the street car rails were removed and open steel grating replaced the deck on the bascule span. Ornate vintage wrought iron railings still adjoin the sidewalks which hang over the river outside the trusswork.



WLB commissioned Portland artist Don Merkt to design the lighting concept for the Broadway Bridge, perhaps one of the more challenging structures to enhance with illumination.

Merkt envisions small high performance spotlights shining down from the top along the outside of each vertical beam. These will outline the bridge’s unusual “saddle” form and reveal its distinctive “Broadway red” color scheme. The design also calls for programmable laser art display of jumping salmon and other regional themes on the interior of the two bridge piers.

Merkt has a broad portfolio of public art works throughout Portland, including installations in Portland’s City Hall and along Tri-Met’s west side light rail line.