Burnside Bridge project to prepare for a big earthquake gets design input from community board
PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - If “the big quake” were to hit the Portland metro today, experts said driving across the Willamette River would not be possible on any of the existing bridges.
Given that scenario, county leaders are focused on rebuilding the Burnside Bridge to make sure it is one that would be able to stand up to a major earthquake.
“This bridge divides the city, north from south, east from west,” said historian Sharon Wood Wortman.
Kicking off the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge Project’s final Community Design Advisory Group meeting for the year on Thursday, Wortman presented the history of the two eras of the Burnside Bridge – first built in 1894, then in 1926.
“I call it the geographical heart of Portland,” Wortman said.
Now, as the project moves forward into the design phase for the third Burnside Bridge, Megan Neill, Multnomah County’s design-phase project manager, said being prepared for a big earthquake is critical.
“We do know there’s a one-in-three chance in the next 50 years that a major Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake will hit our region,” Neill said.
In a simulation, it shows what the Burnside Bridge would look like crumbling in a major quake.
“None of our downtown bridges were really designed at a time when the engineers knew about the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake,” Neill said.
So, if and when disaster hits, county leaders want to make sure there’s a route connecting both sides of the river.
“The location of the Burnside Bridge is in the exact center of our entire region,” Neill said. “It’s actually on one of our region’s emergency transportation routes.”
And they are making sure the community has a say on the overall look and feel of the new bridge.
“We want to honor the fact that we are both replacing a structure on the National Historic Register and also be putting in place a new structure that is going to be seen by everyone who comes to Portland,” Neill said.
The county said its preliminary estimate for the project is $895 million and a third of the project funds have been committed so far through a local vehicle registration fee.
If funding is secured, construction could begin as early as 2025.
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