“Bright Lights” Focus on New Willamette River Bridge

For its next leg of light-rail, TriMet is proposing what will be downtown’s first new river bridge in 35 years–and the nation’s first-ever transit/pedestrian/bicycle bridge. It’s a trophy in the making to add to Portland’s ever-growing mantel of green alt-transport innovations.

But, not surprisingly, a debate is emerging over cost and aesthetics. So for the first Bright Lights city design discussion of the new year, we’ve invited the project’s designer, Boston-based architect Miguel Rosales. He’s trying to create a beautiful bridge TriMet can afford.

Presented by Portland Spaces magazine and the City Club of Portland–and sponsored by the Architecture Foundation of Oregon–the Bright Lights series features conversations with the designers, planners, elected officials, and other movers and shakers affecting the city. The discussions take place every second Monday of the month at Jimmy Mak’s, 221 NW 10th Ave.

Rosales has designed such sublimely elegant bridges as the Puente Centenario over the Panama Canal and the Zakim Bridge in Boston. Over the past six months, in collaboration with German engineering firm Schlaich Bergermann and Partners, he has studied a dozen types of bridges for TriMet and the Willamette River Transit Bridge Advisory Committee. The final two contenders could not be more different: a cable-stay bridge with towers reaching 270 feet high and a wave bridge that echoes the surrounding hills with an undulating open-web truss pattern. A more standard bridge, the cable-stay is estimated to cost between $89 million and $93 million. The wave bridge, which has never been built before, could run from $93 million to $119 million.

At Bright Lights, Rosales will speak about the merits and risks of each design, as well as his own career in bridge design. In particular, he will address the challenges of designing unique structures like the wave bridge. The Guatemalan-born, MIT-educated Rosales has led the design of more than 15 major bridges, including the new Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge in Washington, DC, and the Liberty Bridge in Greenville, South Carolina.

Doors open at 5:00 p.m. Presentation begins at 5:30 p.m.

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