The refrain I heard last night at the meeting to rate the designs for the new Sellwood Bridge was, "Anything is better than what's there now." The current bridge, with cracked cement and overburdened steel, is so close to collapse that it ranks a two out the federal infrastructure ratings that span 1-100. The two-lane bridge with a tiny four-foot wide sidewalk for bikes and pedestrians is doubling its width no matter which final design is chosen. Though it's keeping only two lanes for car travel, when the bridge breaks ground in July 2012, engineers will be laying down cement for shoulders (what a novelty!) as well as bike lanes on both sides of the bridge and 12-foot-wide sidewalks. The pricetag for all this is $330 million, with Multnomah County picking up its share of the tab beginning this week with a new $19 vehicle registration fee increase. If you're looking for someone to shake your fist at, drivers, it's Clackamas County commuters who will be paying only a $5 registration fee increase to fund the bridge.
Architect Ricardo Rabines sat in on the discussion last night where the bridge's citizen committee scored the 12 proposed designs for the bridge, using input from a 2400-person city-wide survey. The possible designs range from the cheap and strictly functional "Concrete Box Girder" to the iconic, highly-modern (and expensive) "Steel Extradosed." Though Rabines' has designed several very modern bridges in the past, the most screamingly contemporary bridge design went down in flames in the vote last night. Here's the design that scored the title of ugliest: