Meet the Fremont Bridge

WHAT: The Fremont Bridge, completed in 1973 thanks to some heavy lifting.

FUN FACT: The Fremont Bridge’s iconic arch was assembled separately at Swan Island and then transported nearly two miles upstream to be lifted into place. Apparently other bridges have similar genesis stories (here’s a timelapse of one recent example), but the Fremont was record-setting: at 6,000 tons (or 12 million pounds), it was the heaviest lift in history at the time of its completion.

NOT SO FUN FACT: If Portland gets hit by a major earthquake, the Fremont Bridge will probably be knocked out of commission. That’s because the ramps onto and off the bridge are expected to collapse even if the span itself survives.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Hot take — the Fremont Bridge is a reminder that paying taxes allows us to have nice things. The backstory here is that state officials started designing the bridge only a few years after completion of the disastrously ugly Marquam Bridge, and Portlanders made it clear they expected better. So the Portland Art Commission was brought onto the project, and the Fremont’s arch design was born — at an expense to taxpayers that seems totally worth it in hindsight, right?

QUOTABLE: “The Fremont Bridge is basically the most expensive piece of art in Portland. I can’t imagine a building that big going up in the middle of the city’s most expensive painting.” —John Hollisterspeaking out against a proposed apartment tower that threatened to block some of his neighbors’ views of the Fremont Bridge. (The development was approved in May.)

Flashback Friday is a weekly-ish series featuring people and events that shaped our city, and we’re binging on bridges right now. Read more about all our city’s bridges here.