The science is fascinating, but essentially, as continental plates converge beneath the Pacific Ocean, they are building up pressure — capable of triggering a devastating magnitude 8+ earthquake when released. It’s happened before, on January 26, 1700 — how’s that for timing — and scientists say we are overdue for another.
An upgraded Burnside Bridge would serve as a vital lifeline route, keeping fire stations, hospitals + other emergency services accessible in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake. It would also support a long-term crossing while the city recovers.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Last week, Multnomah County’s Board of Commissioners approved an alternative contract method, which will help mitigate risks, identify innovative ways to lower costs, and shorten the project’s timeline. Yesterday, a task force made up of 20 local business leaders + community members held a virtual meeting to discuss 1,500+ comments gathered from the public on these three proposed cost-saving measures.
First, the architectural team suggests narrowing the design plans to about the width of the current bridge; space for bicyclists + pedestrians would still be wider than it is now. A girder structure for the west approach, in place of an arch or cable support, and a bascule drawbridge, instead of a vertical lift, would further cut costs + maintain unobstructed views of Old Town.
All told, these changes could save $185-$240 million, drastically increasing the likelihood that the project actually gets finished.
Much like being able to cross the Willamette River, being prepared for an earthquake is not something to take for granted. Here are some resources to get you started: