Time Lapse at the Tilikum Crossing

July 30, 2014

Portland has been home for 25 years now. A beautiful city in many respects, it is blessed with ‘nicknames in abundance’: Rose City, Stumptown, Rip City, and, of course, Bridgetown.

My daughters learned the names and characteristics of each bridge spanning the Willamette river as they made their way through elementary school. “Dad, did you know that the Steel Bridge is the only double deck, vertical lift bridge with independent lifts in the entire world?” No, I honestly had no idea, but it’s all true and I can ride my bike down to the Steel Bridge on almost any evening to see the decks, the lifts, and watch the sunset. Fun facts about Portland bridges have been taught in grade school for I don’t know how long, and while bridge trivia help connect Portland children to their city, they also serve another purpose: teaching new arrivals like myself how to untangle the many mysteries of crossing the city from east to west and back again.

One thing that is true about bridges, however, is while they may go up and down in various ways, they are built to last. Only one bridge, the Sellwood, on the south side of town has undergone any significant modifications in the past 25 years. So its a really big deal when a new bridge is added to the mix. Travel patterns change. The look and feel of the river change. And, of course, the process of building the bridge is itself a study in change: pilings in the river, concrete footings, ramps, decks growing from both sides towards a meeting spot high above the water.

My wife and I have been watching the growth of the first new Portland bridge to be built in 34 years, the Tilikum Crossing (Bridge of the People), since the first pilings were sunk, but ‘bridge watching’ became an almost daily event this past spring as we drove past it on our way to work: “Have they narrowed the gap? I think so. How long do you think it will take them to close it? I don’t know. Do you think they can toss stuff from one side to the other yet?”

Trimet, the regional transit agency that will be the main user of the bridge, has just released a set of images covering every day in the entire three-year construction project, May 27, 2011-July 24, 2014 (all images were taken from the same camera location at OHSU). Trimet combined the images into a 97 second time-lapse video that is very cool to see (if other link is broken, try this). Let’s see, if three years require 97 seconds of video, how much video time does a single day require?

My girls are all grown up now, but I suspect that a lot of children in other Portland households will be quizzing their parents next fall, “Dad, did you know that the Tilikum Crossing will be the ‘first multi-modal bridge in the U.S. to carry light rail and streetcar trains, buses, bikes and pedestrians, but no private cars?'” The Crossing will open for public use in September, 2015.

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