Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale

Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale

Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale, April 24, 2013

Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale, April 24, 2013


Spanning the sandy River east of Troutdale on the Historic Columbia River Highway, Multnomah County, Oregon, beginning at milepost 14.2.

View Stark Street Bridge in a larger map

Date of Construction



Waddell and Herrington, Consulting engineers, Kansas City


Oregon Bridge and Construction Company, Portland


Oregon Department of Transportation

Present Use

Vehicular and pedestrian traffic


First modern bridge constructed on what became the Historic Columbia River Highway. Designed by the premier bridge engineering firm of Waddell and Herrington, which also created the 1912 Steel Bridge, a through double-deck vertical lift truss of telescoping design, and the 1910 Hawthorne Bridge, a through vertical lift truss, both over the Willamette River in Portland.

Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale

The Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale is one of two beginning points of the Historic Columbia River Highway (HCRH). The other is the Sandy River Bridge (Stark Street), which connects Stark Street with the Historic Columbia River Highway at milepost 16.7 Both Sandy River bridges are the only steel truss spans on the highway. Constructed in 1912, the Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale is the oldest structure on the Historic Columbia River Highway and the oldest state-owned metal truss bridge in Oregon. Multnomah County built it as part of a large farm-to-market road improvement campaign of the 1910s. The bridge initially served nearby rural residents from the rolling fields high above the Columbia River east of Troutdale. Just east of the bridge, the county road rose steeply, with 10 to 20 percent grades to reach an elevation nearing 700 feet in the district near Chanticleer Inn, 22 mites from downtown Portiand.

In 1916, well after other, more eastern sections of the HCRH were completed, Multnomah County cut a new, 1½ mile long road through 200-foot rock bluffs, along the south side of the Sandy River. This new route eliminated excessive grades and achieved a water-level road from the Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale to the new Sandy River Bridge (Stark Street) completed in 1914. Both bridges served as a feeders for traffic along the Historic Columbia River Highway, which in this part of Multnomah County was simply a realignment over gentle grades of existing county roads.12 Estimated construction cost was $23,600.

Design and Description

The Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale, from west to east was constructed of one 40′-0″ steel plate girder span and two nine- panel 162′-0″ Pratt through-truss spans (9 x 18′). Its 18′ roadway was constructed of a tongue-and-groove deck covered with asphalt. A four-foot plank sidewalk with timber railing cantilevered out from the south elevation on a continuation of the wooden deck beams. Horizontal clearance was 17′-5″ and vertical clearance was 14′-5″.

Waddell and Harrington, a well-known Kansas City bridge engineering firm, designed this structure shortly after they completed the 1912 Steel Bridge, a telescoping vertical lift structure spanning the Willamette River in nearby downtown Portland. The main spans of the Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale appear to be standard riveted steel Pratt through-truss structures. Inclined end posts and upper chords were made from rolled steel channel and plate with latticed bracing. Truss vertical chords consisted of rolled angle steel and lattice. Portal bracing was made from angle steel, lattice, and gusset plates. Sway bracing was angle steel and gusset plates arranged in a lattice form. Diagonal bracing for the Pratt trusses consisted of angle steel and intermediate bracing plates. Lower chords were made from heavier rolled steel with bracing. The lower chords were pin-connected to shoes affixed to the piers.

Truss protection barriers, or steel guard fences, about 3′ high and consisting of steel angle frames with intermediate lacing, were placed inside the truss panels above the deck curbs to prevent vehicles from damaging the superstructure. A sidewalk was placed on the upstream or south elevation of the bridge and consisted originally of 2″ x 8″ planking and 3″ x 8″ stringers on 6″ x 6″ cantilevered deck beams that also supported tongue-and- groove deck planking. A standard highway guard-rail type barrier constructed of timber posts and 2″ x 6″ stock was placed horizontally serving as the sidewalk handrail.

Designers used two types of piers in constructing the Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale. The west pier of the plate girder span and the east pier of the east Pratt truss are simple reinforced-concrete batter structures founded on bedrock. The west pier of the west Pratt truss and the intermediate pier shared by both Pratt trusses consist of pairs of battered circular bents connected by solid web walls. Stream foundation conditions no doubt dictated the types of piers used on the bridge. The use or arrangement of piling is unknown but the Sandy River, as its name implies, is a wide stream with a gravel bed, with bedrock most likely some distance below the stream floor.

Masonry guard walls consisting of ashlar basalt with a screened concrete cap served as entryways at both ends of the bridge. These features were probably not original to the bridge’s construction but were added latter in the 1910s while masons were constructing retaining walls and guard fences along nearby sections of the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Repair and Maintenance

The Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale has served the Historic Columbia River Highway and the Multnomah County road system since 1912 with relatively few modifications. Nevertheless, repeated encounters with oversized vehicles have damaged truss members, portal panels, and decking. As early as 1922 when the Oregon State Highway Department first began maintaining the Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale, inspectors noted the need to repair the structure for these reasons.

By 1930, the state bridge engineer, Conde B. McCullough expressed concerns over the Sandy River Bridge’s live load capacity. A request to transport a large boulder across the bridge prompted his interest. The boulder was on its way to serve as a monument to the HCRH’s visionary, Samuel Hill, near the former location of Chantilcleer Inn. McCullough calculated that the 25-ton rock, along with a 7-ton trailer would stress the floor system “to a point equal to three-fourths of the elastic limit of the material.” He saw this as the ”extreme limit” for this bridge.

In 1935, sidewalk planking showed signs of deterioration and masonry Walls needed repainting. The eastern-most panels of the Downstream, or north, truss of the second main span were subjected to continual damage from truck traffic. Glenn S. Paxson, Oregon State Bridge Engineer, wrote in 1937 that he believed that the problem was greater than the bridge’s extremely narrow deck. He saw the “big trouble” as the compound curve at the east end of the structure, because its alignment “would naturally throw westbound [traffic] into the down stream side of the truss.” He saw the need both for installation of horizontal guard rails, or shear rails, on the down stream truss to protect it from any more damage and for realigning the bride’s eastern approach. Unfortunately, on further investigation, the division engineer, E. A. Collier, concluded that to undertake excavation of the solid rock at the bride’s eastern approach to realign the compound curve was very expensive. In the end, the curve was not changed and two sets of rolled steel horizontal guard rails were placed at 5′ and 10′ above the deck and running for three panels, from L0 to U3L3. Nevertheless, they were not in place before another vehicle collided with a vertical member and so badly damaged it that it was stretched beyond the elastic limited and needed replacing.

At the same time, inspectors noted deterioration in the deck system. In 1938 they found that the ends of the 6″ x 6″ transverse wooden deck beams were deteriorating, and while the road deck could still safely carry traffic loads, the sidewalk sagged at points where it was attached to the beams. By 1948, inspectors recommended a complete replacement of the Sandy River Bridge’s deck system at a cost of over $15,000. By the 1950s, the deck system was rebuilt. This overhaul included removing the wooden deck beads and planking and replacing it with steel beams and stringers and a reinforced-concrete deck. The new sidewalk included a steel support system, attached to the new road deck, and covered with treated planking. Most likely, during the deck reconstruction, the bridge’s east masonry approach rails were replaced with treated timber posts and “W” rail.

From the 1950s through the early 1990s, the Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale has required little more than routine maintenance, such as cleaning and repainting. One complaint repeated by state bridge inspectors has been the structure’s hazardous narrow roadway, prompting calls for its replacement.

Excerpted from Historic American Engineering Record, Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale, HAER OR-36-A.
Historian: Robert W. Hadlow, Phd., September 1995.
Transmitted by: Lisa M. Pfueller, September, 1996.