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Buses return to Sellwood Bridge

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Yes, the new bridge is more than strong enough to support buses!

A decade ago, TriMet withdrew bus service from the Sellwood Bridge when the old bridge's deteriorating condition led to a weight restriction per vehicle which the buses could not meet.

MIKE PULLEN, MULTNOMAH COUNTY - The first TriMet bus in a decade to cross the Sellwood Bridge did so on December 5. After traffic was moved to the new Sellwood Bridge, still under construction, buses still stayed away – not only because the weight restriction was retained until the work was done, but because the temporary sharp turns at the east end of the bridge were too tight for a bus to safely navigate.

A clear sign that the new Sellwood Bridge is really, actually, finally done was the return to the bridge by TriMet buses in early December – shown in the accompanying ceremonial first crossing, captured in a photo by Mike Pullen, the spokesperson for the bridge's owner – Multnomah County – throughout the entire lengthy bridge replacement project.

At present, the only bus you are likely to see crossing the bridge, though, is the business-day-only Milwaukie-to-Portland Express Bus 99, which has now been rerouted to use McLoughlin south of Tacoma Street, but Macadam north of Tacoma; with two stops in Sellwood along S.E. Tacoma.

That provides one of two ways for Sellwood residents to get directly to and from Downtown Portland on public transportation – the other being the Tacoma MAX Station on the east side of S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard, just south of the Tacoma Street overcrossing. So far, north Westmoreland residents are not as lucky. When MAX light rail service began, all direct downtown service to and from S.E. 17th and Harold Street on McLoughlin from Buses 31, 32, and 33 was discontinued – but no Harold Street MAX Station was ever built, so their nearest stations are at Bybee and Holgate Boulevards.

Of the two remaining buses serving north Westmoreland – Bus 70, which used to terminate at the Rose Quarter, now winds up on N.E. Fremont; and Bus 19, which still does go to and from downtown, does so not on the new Tilikum Transit Bridge, but very slowly – at least in commute hours – on the Ross Island Bridge.

Tri-Met's stated reason for avoiding the speedier Tilikum with Bus 19 is to maintain service to a single bus stop at the west end of the Ross Island Bridge.