From The Editor

Waving goodbye to the old Sellwood Bridge
Sellwood Bridge, old, new, opening, party, demolition
The first visitors to cross the new Sellwood Bridge, on December 5th, had to navigate a temporary sidewalk beyond the south edge of the new bridge because traffic had been routed from the old bridge to the new one over the new south-side sidewalk and bike lane space. Demolition of the old bridge will allow the east end of the new bridge to be widened and completed. (Photo by Eric Norberg)

Most likely, this month – February – will be the very last one in which you will (or can) cross the old Sellwood Bridge. Some ninety years after its debut, when it arrived to put an end to the Sellwood Ferry, it itself is now about to pass away.

During the lengthy construction of the new bridge next to it, the old bridge – slid slightly northward – has been its own bypass, allowing drivers, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists, to continue to cross the river at Sellwood while the new and larger bridge has been taking form.

We are months away from the huge construction project actually being complete; that should happen before next Christmas though. But the new bridge cannot be finished until the old one goes away, and before the first of March the dismantling of the familiar old bridge will be well underway.

The problem, you see, is that at the east end both bridges have to connect to Tacoma Street, if you are going to travel on either one. Since till now we were traveling on the old bridge, its connection to Tacoma was maintained until the new bridge was nearing readiness. Then, the connection was moved in a curvy transition from the old bridge to the new one, and for some time now we have all been driving on the easternmost part of the new bridge.

But that meant that only two lanes of traffic could get through there; the extra width of the new bridge, along with the expansive bikes lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the new structure, could not be built out on the north side as long as we had to keep driving on the old bridge that was still in that space.

So, it’s about time to pull the plug on the old historic Sellwood Bridge.

If all goes according to plan, the last day you can use it will be Thursday, February 25th. At the end of the afternoon commute that afternoon, the old bridge will be closed, and for several days there will be no way to cross the Willamette River at Tacoma Street. Be ready to use the Ross Island Bridge Friday through Monday! Tuesday morning, March 1st, you’ll be on the new bridge all the way across.

What will happen in those four days?

Well, the first thing may be a sentimental “goodbye walk” across the old Sellwood Bridge one last time. There may or may not be time to allow it, but it’s worth noting that the construction workers themselves suggested it to Multnomah County, and some of them might even be on that stroll if it happens.

By Friday morning, the demolition of the old bridge will be underway, starting at the east end. Taking it apart and recycling the pieces of so long a bridge will take quite a while, but by September there should be no trace of it, or its supports, left.

Also starting on Friday, workers will begin the process of preparing to connect the new bridge to the traffic lanes at both ends, striping it and posting it as needed.

On Saturday, February 27th, be hoping for a nice day. Work will stop, and the new bridge will be a party platform for the day, with Multnomah County personnel joined by local volunteers (it is hoped) who will help with setup, operation, and teardown of a big celebration – held by the county as a thank-you to residents and businesspeople at both ends of the bridge who have borne years of hassle and inconvenience as the huge project has ground onward.

There is even hope that perhaps a schoolchild or two who was present for the old bridge’s opening ceremony can return to be honored on this special day.

If you are or know of such a person, please contact Mike Pullen at Multnomah County! His office number is 503/209-4111. His office would also like to hear from you if you would like to volunteer to be in one of the three groups of volunteers to help run this party, in three to four hour shifts.

From noon till four on the afternoon of the 27th, there are expected to be a parade, entertainers, booths and concessions from local businesses and organizations, and a good time to be had by all. Although there are plans to arrange the celebration on the bridge in such a way as to provide at least a minimum of cover for visitors, it would certainly help if there would be no rain or snow or ice that day. But the party’s on, rain or shine.

THE BEE will be there. We wouldn’t miss it. We hope you will be too. You’ve earned it.

When the celebration is over, and the confetti is cleaned up, work will resume for two more days on preparing the new bridge for use.

The new Sellwood Bridge will be the strongest and safest of all Portland’s bridges, the first having been built to withstand the magnitude 9+ plate-boundary mega-quake we now know we will eventually experience here. In such a catastrophe, our infrastructure will be in ruins and there may not be many places we can actually go, but at least we can cross from one side of the Willamette River to the other, and this may be the only place in Portland where anyone can do it.

But for now, well before dawn on Tuesday morning, March 1 – probably by 6 a.m., if not before – barriers will be lifted, and cars and other vehicles will begin start crossing the new Sellwood Bridge for the first time ever, opening the final chapter of this epic construction project.

Letters to the Editor
East Side Mill & Lumber Company

History in the basement


I read Eileen Fitzsimons’ article [January BEE] “Unexpected Gifts are the Best” with interest. We, too, have evidence that our home was built with material lumbered at the East Side Mill & Lumber Co. Here is a photo of a beam in the basement of our home at 1011 S.E. Malden Street. The words “East Side” are just barely visible at the top of the beam. The house was built in 1910 and known as the “Newell House.” We moved here in 1983. When we moved in, we also found, tucked up on top of this very beam, an alpine stick that had been shipped to one of the men who lived here: J. Newell, Mazamas member, 1011 S.E. Malden, Portland, Oregon; stored there many years ago, and long forgotten. This was back when items could be mailed without boxing or wrapping them. Someone had simply tied an address tag on the stick and sent it to Mr. Newell. We subsequently donated it to the Mazamas for their clubhouse display. We lament the current destruction of many such beams as old homes in Sellwood, Westmoreland, and Eastmoreland are torn down – and we are proud to be able to share this photo of ours with your readers. 

Ardy Dunn
Via e-mail


New rail yard issues raised


Has THE BEE noticed the major changes at the Brooklyn Rail Yard Annex (near S.E. 22nd/Gladstone) over the last year? Major increase in traffic flow, day and night, with no apparent updates to road safety or parking. Have you noticed the partial blockage of 26th Avenue with parked semi truck containers – not an appropriate use of city streets. Also, was there a traffic impacts analysis [done] related to the increased traffic flow?

Have you noticed the installation of the massive stadium lights that light up the whole neighborhood and block West Hills views we used to enjoy? Were these lights researched or permitted, do they need to be? These lights have changed the skyline of the Creston/Kenilworth/Brooklyn neighborhoods, and are an eyesore.

Oh, and last but not least, the dust clouds from the trucks in the unpaved rail yard...I imagine there are some sort of dust control strategies or mitigation practices they are implementing, right? Especially with a Daycare 50 feet away? Diesel and rail yard particulates can’t be good for developing lungs. I understand there may be permit guidelines for visible dust emissions. Some days this summer there was a haze that hung over all of the Creston/Kenilworth/Brooklyn neighborhoods.

I’m all for industry, and understand the importance of the railroads, but industry should expand responsibly and with the safety and well-being of the community in mind.

I hope this e-mail is enough to spark some interest in this issue, as it's directly affecting thousands in the Creston/Kenilworth/Brooklyn neighborhoods adjacent to the yard.

Jeremy Jones
S.E. 27th Avenue

EDITOR’S NOTE: A well-informed neighborhood activist comments, “The issues raised by the writer are serious and responsible, but resolution is difficult if not close to impossible. That has hardly stopped us on occasion in the past, but does warrant thoughtful discussion on how to proceed.” A start is bringing up the matter, which Mr. Jones has now done.


Street parking by MAX riders


Regarding street parking associated with the Orange Line, I spoke to my father, Edward Gronke, who has served for decades on Clackmas County planning committees, and he tells me that TriMet wanted larger commuter lots at the Park Avenue terminus of the MAX line in Milwaukie and at Tacoma Street. The problem, as THE BEE reported, is that Congress cut funding for the project. At the time, Oregon’s state and local elected officials failed to speak with a unified voice in support of continuing federal funding. In particular, my father recalls that some Clackamas County and Milwaukie officials were still very ambivalent about the Orange Line.

Ridership for the Orange Line has far exceeded even the most optimistic projections, and nearly all elected officials in Clackamas have learned a lesson about the value of regional transit. Unfortunately, the die has been cast. Like far too many drivers, Dad is an unhappy “offender” – when he wants to go downtown, he drives up 99E to get to the Park Avenue stop, but the parking structure is constantly full. He continues up the line looking for convenient parking near the Tacoma and Bybee stops.

Rather than slamming TriMet, we should celebrate the success of the Orange Line, and engage with our local and regional elected officials to increase the frequency of bus feeder lines, identify locations for parking for regional commuters, and work to secure funding for new and expanded parking near the Orange Line. 

Paul Gronke
Eastmoreland Resident
and Professor, Reed College

Redwood tree, cut down, Sellwood, 17th and Tacoma Street
The property referenced is just west of the Goodwill donation center at S.E. 17th and Tacoma Street.

Redwood tree in Sellwood


A Redwood tree in Sellwood is being cut down today (December 18) as I write this. In about 1920, my father planted a redwood tree in Sellwood close to the intersection of 17th and Tacoma. Neighbors of my grandparents took a trip to the California Redwoods in their new car and brought back a small tree; my dad planted it in their back yard. He was about 10 at the time. That tree has grown to be a landmark there, and was in very good health – I know because when I inherited that property in 2006, I had Urban Forest Pro come out and check the tree. They also did some selective pruning for me.

I sold the Tacoma street property and my grandparents’ house on Tenino in 2007. A friend on Tenino Street called me this morning to let me know that the tree was being cut down. Nobody on Tenino Street was notified that this was going to happen, nor were they notified that a 44 unit apartment complex was scheduled for construction on that Tacoma property and the property just to the west of it. This friend will have a 44 unit apartment complex looming over her back yard.

Mollie Frey
via e-mail

Helping a neighbor


I wanted to let you know about something really wonderful that is happening right in our community. There is a homeless Veteran who is living in his Jeep Cherokee on a street in Brentwood-Darlington. Because his family is three large dogs, he doesn’t qualify for VA housing.

A nice neighbor asked if anyone had any suggestions as to how we could help him. Lots of people have been wonderfully generous bringing him food, coupons for Mt. Scott Community Center, and dog food donations. Natural Pets even matched a purchase of three dog baths! However initially our best efforts didn’t turn up any housing options that would work and would be sustainable.

But we came up with a solution! After some searching and checking them out, we found a very nice, no leaks, 18-foot travel trailer, with a heater, hot water, stove etc. It is long enough that he could really live there with his dogs and have it be comfortable. I visited it myself and it is clean and well maintained. We are raising money to give Brad a home. His dream is to take his dogs to the country and work as a ranch hand, caretaker, or security guard. I think he should get a job as Santa since that is who he looks like!

The website to make a donation is: As of my writing this, we are almost halfway there!

Abi Spring
S.E. Ogden Street

Thanks for TV editorial


Thank you for aiding my TV reception understanding [“From the Editor”, December BEE], as I had not understood why I got so very few TV stations, while others I know received more. SCAN! A simple routine I had not done! Thanks again!

June Oakley

SMILE Station freshened with paint


SMILE Station, an historical firehouse on S.E. 13th and Tenino in Sellwood, now utilized as a neighborhood meeting place and a rental space, got some much-needed TLC on Friday, January 8. The staff of Brummell Enterprises, including Karen Tam and Rodney Phleiger, organized labor and materials to update and improve the interior of the Station's main meeting area. Members of the “Neighborhood Builders” (a program of Adsideo Church) not only moved all the furniture and prepped the work space, but also painted the entire room, including the trim! Rodney P. did a fantastic job of refurbishing the finish on the Station's piano. The Senior Studies Institute, which meets most Mondays at the Station, then contracted with Dennis Wilkerson to tune the piano, too. Miller Paint donated all the paint for this project. Please thank these individuals, organizations, and businesses for their investment in our neighborhood.

Nancy Walsh
The SMILE Station Committee


Dangers in contact sports


I commend to your readers the op-ed piece in the New York Times for Monday, December 7, entitled “Don't Let Kids Play Football” written by the Chief Medical Examiner of San Joaquin County, California. He makes compelling arguments against allowing children (that is, kids under age 18) to play high-impact contact sports, in particular tackle football. The now well-publicized risk he discusses in some detail is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Given the considerations he sets forth, it is incumbent on the Portland School District as well as the State of Oregon to consider this issue and to decide affirmatively, one way or the other, whether to allow high school tackle football to continue. In the meantime, just as importantly, all parents with kids playing tackle football should decide for their families whether the risks of CTE justify the continued participation of their children in this high-contact sport.

William R. Meyer

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