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Multnomah County Dedicates New Sellwood Bridge


Multnomah County dedicated the new Sellwood Bridge on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016.

Kathleen and Malcolm Freund guarded the red ribbon stretched across the new Sellwood Bridge.

The Freunds, who have been married for more than 50 years, live in Corbett. They are volunteers with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Citizen Patrol.

“They said, ‘This is a special assignment,’” Malcolm said. “‘And if you have a couple extra bodies, we could use ‘em.’”

The office asked the Freunds and several other volunteers to help with the opening ceremony for the bridge, though, technically, it doesn’t open until the first week of March.

On Saturday, people ate from food trucks and took selfies on the new span set to open during the first week of March.

While many have enjoyed a dose of pageantry and warm weather on the bridge this week, others are ready for a calmer commute. Southeast Portland residents hoping to cross the Willamette have been rerouted over the Ross Island Bridge near the city center, clogging roadways.

But relief is on the way. The new Sellwood Bridge could open as soon as March 1.

The old bridge was a safety hazard. On a National Bridge Inventory sufficiency survey, the old structure scored a 2 out of a possible 100 — 100 being the safest.

“It never bothered me to drive across it,” said Pat Keaveny, a Southeast resident.

“We’d just go over it really fast,” her husband Gary said.

The new bridge eliminates the structural deficiencies of the old one and is built to withstand a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.

But people also wanted the bridge to be neighborhood appropriate.

Ron Shaw has lived in Sellwood for 40 years. He said he doesn’t want to see a heavy traffic increase. A park, pool and bike path all sit on or near the span. Plus, he remembers Sellwood of yore: quaint and quiet.

“Sellwood has become a jewel and everybody knows it,” Shaw said. “And I don’t have any qualms about it.”

Portlanders danced, ran and cycled across the fresh pavement Saturday, striking a tune of elation at finding a solution to the crumbling old Sellwood Bridge. Crews have already started dismantling the old structure.

Because they don’t live nearby, the Freunds rarely use the Sellwood Bridge, but they were happy to see so many others’ joy. “It’s wonderful to dedicate something new,” Kathleen said. “And it is beautiful.”

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