Salem Historical Quarterly
Historic Railroad Bridge
West of the intersection of Union and Front Streets

The central bridge span lifted for early 1900s river commerce
From the day in 1913 when this bridge opened to commerce, it not only increased the prosperity of lumber companies, but also promoted business in the little settlements along its right-of-way. West Salem incorporated itself the following year. However, as different methods of transporting goods developed in the 20th century, especially truck transport, the use of the bridge declined. By the 1980s the bridge was abandoned by its owners, the Union Pacific Railroad Company.

Exercising a three-year option to buy the bridge for $1 – plus a $550,000 trust fund for maintenance, to be paid to the city over the next four years – the city has accepted responsibility for restoring the Salem Railroad Bridge for walking and biking use. A dedicated Trust is being formed to accept funds for the renovation of this local asset. Financing the renovation of the bridge is a long-time, community goal involving many interest groups and ages in the project. We look forward to the day when this bridge is a part of our enjoyment of downtown – on both sides of our river.

Any project that features the Willamette is important to our economy. Even today, almost 70% of Oregon’s population lives within 20 miles of the river: it is the heart of the state. Once it pumped the life-blood of transportation and prosperity, now urban renewal projects in several locations are enhancing the livability and stimulating the economy of the cities through which it flows. Although the bridge will never again accommodate river commerce with its lift span, as seen in the photograph above, it can stimulate the local economy by attracting heritage tourism in our city.

When You Are Here:
Parking is available in a lot to your left after turning off Front Street onto Union Street.

Enjoy the view of the bridge and the Willamette river from the riverfront walk, south from of the bridge. You pass the historic buildings of the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village. Enter Salem's Riverfront Park. While there, ride the newly built Carousel and enjoy a leisurely ride on Salem's own stern-wheeler, the "Willamette Queen".

To Learn More:
Call the Salem Historic Landmarks Commission at 503 588 6173