By researching Oregon’s historic bridges, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) engineers—and historians—hope to help guide efforts to preserve some of the state’s transportation treasures. “Oregon’s Historic Bridge Field Guide” offers insight into bridge building in the state, including its significance to the system and little-known details about the historic features found on many of the structures.
In conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration, ODOT printed 1,000 spiral-bound copies, available at libraries and select locations around the state. It is available for download as a large PDF file from the Bridge Section website (link is in center column.)
The collection presents 334 bridges ODOT considers to be of historic value to the state, as of publication, organized by county. Some of the information may seem technical, but Oregonians and visitors to the state will also find it compelling. For example, the 1929 Alder Creek Bridge on old U.S. 30 is one of the few remaining from the original construction of the Old Oregon Trail Highway. Interstate 84 replaced most of the highway and its bridges, leaving the Conde McCullough-designed Alder Creek Bridge isolated.
“If you have ever read the milepoint-by-milepoint ‘Oregon for the Curious’ by Ralph Friedman, and liked it, this is your kind of fun,” said Chris Bell, ODOT historian and one of the book’s authors. “We have sought to create a tactile resource for our maintenance and bridge crews, but in doing so, we feel there is something for Oregonians in almost every part of the state, who undoubtedly cross one or more of these bridges on a regular basis.”
The new compilation is helping ODOT prioritize preservation efforts on a statewide basis while providing a guide to its crews who maintain these vital historic links to Oregon’s heritage.
“Bridges are the very fabric of our transportation network, but more than that, they serve as an object lesson in Oregon’s transportation history, physical geography and the evolution of engineering,” Bell said.