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Built in 1910, Hawthorne Bridge in Portland, OR is the oldest vertical lift bridge in the world, the second-oldest bridge in Portland, the oldest continuous span in Portland, and the oldest bridge for motor vehicles in Portland. It crosses the Willamette River.

Hawthorne Bridge is forest green, with red railings and counterweights. Before it was repainted recently, it was beige. The original color of the bridge was black.

Hawthorne Bridge normally carries approximately 30,000 motorists across it daily, though at the time of this writing, the number is about 50,000 due to the half-closure of the Ross Island Bridge for major repairs. The bridge, due to its low clearance, must raise the drawbridge quite often, though lifts are not allowed during rush hour.

Hawthorne Bridge was built to replace the Madison Street Bridge, which burned down in 1902. It is owned and operated by Multnomah County. SE Madison Street feeds it from the East, and SW Madison Street feeds it from the West. The bridge feeds onto SE Hawthorne Boulevard on the East and onto SE Main Street on the West. The west end of the bridge is in Downtown, while the east end is in the Central Eastside Industrial District (CEID).

The eastern end of the bridge has an extended approach to bypass the railroad traffic beneath. This approach was constructed in 1957. The original supports for the approach were wooden, and had become rotten. Thus, they were replaced in a reconstruction in 1992. The same year, an additional two-way ramp was constructed so that traffic could enter from and exit onto SE Water Av.

The Bridge underwent a major repair project from March 1998 to April 1999. The old brown lead paint was removed very carefully (so that it would not fall into and pollute the Willamette River), and the bridge was repainted to its current colors. The metal grating on which you drive was replaced. The new grating is reinforced so that it can carry streetcars, which I estimate are likely to be constructed from downtown up SE Hawthorne Boulevard before 2007. The final major change of the project was to widen the sidewalks from 6 to 10 feet so that pedestrians and bicyclists can coexist happily.


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