Brian Libby | The Atlantic CityLab

A rendering of the Tilikum Crossing, designed by San Francisco's Donald McDonald. (HNTB)
A rendering of the Tilikum Crossing, designed by San Francisco’s Donald McDonald. (HNTB)

 

It’s an early-summer morning at the construction site for Portland’s first new bridge in a generation, the Tilikum Crossing, and Dan Blocher is feeling good about its progress. Completion is still a year away, but since the two ends of the bridge were connected in the middle several weeks ago, public response in self-described Bridgetown (when it’s not, say, the Rose City, Stumptown or Rip City) has been positive.

“Most people can sort of viscerally recognize an inherent beauty when the bridge is properly designed for its need,” says Blocher, executive director of capitol projects for TriMet, the city’s transit agency. “I think you know when you’ve got it right when the completed product just seems to fit, just like it belongs there. And we feel very good about the feedback we’re getting on this bridge now that you can see what it’s going to look like.”

As we stand along the banks of the Willamette River, where workers are toiling both above us on the recently completed deck and below in small boats where the footings meet the water, Blocher points to a number of the bridge’s unique design features. The H-shaped towers are smaller than those of most cable-stay bridges, for example. That’s because Tilikum threads single cables up through the towers and down again to the deck, rather than using two sets of cables connected separately to the tower. The bike and pedestrian paths on either side also jut out in the middle, he says, to reduce wind drag. The angle of the white cables is meant to recall the triangular form of Mount Hood, standing tall in the distance and visible from the bridge. Read more