Portland’s Fremont Bridge, the second longest tied arch bridge in the world after China’s Caiyuanba Bridge, opened to automobile traffic on Thursday, November 15, 1973 (The Oregonian, 16 November 1973).
It was raining hard, so they opened the Fremont Bridge a little early Thursday.
It took longer than expected, however. The 1919 Chevrolet “Baby Grand” touring car, owned by Carter Helming of Tigard, which was to be the first vehicle over, wouldn’t start.
Helming’s passengers were Glenn Jackson, chairman of the State Transportation Commission, and Frank Branch Riley, 98, an attorney and longtime advocate of better highways in Oregon.
The old car leaned into the Highway Division’s blue and yellow ribbons across the bridge’s four traffic lanes. Then it wheezed, wheezed some more and finally had to be pushed through the ribbons by bystanders.
There were no speeches and a plaque commemorating the occasion was passed hurriedly to Jackson and Riley, who also signed a Portland Rosarian’s log for the event.
Some 30 autos, most of them more than 25 years old, followed the 1919 Chevrolet off the bridge’s west end before Highway Division personnel removed barriers at either end.
Until the Tilikum Crossing bridges is completed the $82 million Fremont is the newest bridge spanning the Willamette River in Portland. The bridge’s completion was the death knell of Harbor Driver along Portland’s west bank of the Willamette River, which is now Tom McCall Waterfront Park.