A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

When you wish for another lane, or bridge

Written August 22nd, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Traffic inches past this stalled truck on the Ellsworth Street Bridge just before noon today.

Most of the time, the 95-year-old Ellsworth Street Bridge on the Willamette River works just fine, but sometimes you wish it had another lane, or Albany had another bridge.

Today was one of those days. A truck bearing the Wilco Farm Store logo and its trailer were stalled in the right-hand lane on the downhill side of the bridge. And for some reason, there was pretty heavy traffic from Benton County to the Linn County side.

The result was the kind of traffic jam that used to happen on many weekday afternoons before the corona crisis cut down on commuting back and forth to work. Traffic was backed up on Highway 20 as well as North Albany Road and Spring Hill Drive.

This kind of situation could be a big problem. Imagine somebody in North Albany was having a medical episode and was being driven to Albany General Hospital, where the emergency room staff is prepared to save lives. Normally the trip takes five or 10 minutes, but not if you’re spending half an hour in stop-and-go traffic.

The New Albany Bridge — that was its name until the Lyon Street Bridge was completed in 1973 — was opened to traffic in November 1925 and dedicated the following spring. It replaced  the old Albany bridge, a spindly construction a few hundred feet upstream that was torn down in June 1927.

The old bridge was too dilapidated to save. That’s why the Highway Commission and Conde McCullough, Oregon’s famous bridge engineer, built the new one. But sometimes, like when you’re stuck on North Albany Road with hundreds of vehicles ahead of you on 20, you wish that old bridge was still there and in good enough shape to take you into town. (hh)

A truck-recovery rig from AA Towing gets ready to remove the stalled vehicle.






12 responses to “When you wish for another lane, or bridge”

  1. Jesse McManus says:

    I doesn’t help that the city continues to allow residential development in North Albany, adding thousands of people who will be traveling Highway 20 and crossing the already crowded bridges. We simply do not have the infrastructure needed to continue cramming more homes into NorthAlbany. Yet still they build.

    • Ms. B says:

      Jesse you are so right. The infrastructure should be done first.

      • Craig says:

        And if they start right now to plan to build a new bridge, it will take 20 years to get the paperwork through, environmental studies down and actually build the bridge.

        Can you imagine traffic on that bridge in 10 years let alone 20?

        But the city needs new lights and sidewalks to encourage more traffic across the bridge.

    • Shirley says:

      Couldn’t agree more.

  2. HowlingCicada says:


    1 – Medium budget. Build a bike/pedestrian bridge that can also carry one or more emergency vehicles (one way at a time) – wide enough for bikes to get out of the way.

    2 – Low to negative budget. Don’t build anything. Use congestion pricing (tolls) to bring the traffic volume down to the point where everyone can cross the river in good time. If the toll is too high, some people will switch to alternatives, which will also help solve downtown parking problems.

    3 – High budget. Build another regular “free” bridge, any size, anywhere. Won’t accomplish anything in the long run because traffic will simply increase to consume all the capacity and more. In 5 to 10 years we will have the same problem, and hundreds of millions in additional bonded debt.

    • centrist says:

      Option one is interesting, but probably won’t get traction
      Doing nothing will please the tax averse until the next time there’s a tieup.
      The daily tieups are relatively short. Patience is an inexpensive solution.
      HH’s point about a Benton-side medical emergency needing to get to SAGH can be answered procedurally. Clear the Lyon bridge and drive the bus thru.

  3. Ray Kopczynski says:

    I don’t recall that anyone is required to purchase home in North Albany. The issues have been know for many years, yet folks still have the desire and wherewithal to live there. Our population is continuing to grow. Where would you have these folks move to?

  4. centrist says:

    Yes, “bus” was intended to mean ambulance/ambo/wagon/etc.
    Couldn’t see your vision of a private vehicle trying to get to SAGH.
    Depending on the immediacy, I would either call 911 for assist or head to Corvallis


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