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DAVID F. ASHTON - Multnomah County Sellwood Bridge spokesman Mike Pullen shows the enlarged artwork for a commemorative enamel pin that will be given to the first 5,000 visitors at the new Sellwood Bridges grand opening party, noon to 4 pm on February 27. Plans are underway for a big celebration to mark the opening of the new Sellwood Bridge on February 27, starting at noon. The public should understand that the bridge will be far from completed by that date, reminded Multnomah County Sellwood Bridge spokesman Mike Pullen, but starting March 1 you’ll be driving on it, and the demolition of the historic old bridge next to it will already be well underway.

When the new bridge first opens, pedestrians and bicyclists can only use the north sidewalk — “Probably until November,” Pullen said.

“Because of our February grand opening celebration, this may come as a surprise to many people,” Pullen told THE BEE. “The south sidewalk will not be available, because the width is too narrow at the East approach.”

Bridge to close for five days

Also, all Sellwood Bridge users need to be aware that the contractor plans to close all traffic — vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian — on the old bridge after the evening commute on Thursday, February 25. “The new bridge opens traffic on Tuesday, March 1st, about 6 a.m.,” Pullen said.

Pullen said that the group planning the grand opening celebration recognizes that the middle of winter isn’t the best time of year to hold an outdoor event.

“It’s only a ‘special day’ just before everyone gets to use the bridge,” Pullen explained. “This is not the ideal time to have a big party on a bridge spanning the Willamette River. But, once we all have driven, walked over, and ridden bikes across, the new bridge — the uniqueness of the experience is forever gone. So this is the time!”

Party preview

First, on February 25, because both the neighborhood association, SMILE, and the Sellwood Westmoreland Business Alliance business association have shown interest in having a farewell event for the old bridge after it’s closed to traffic on Thursday, Pullen said the contractor has agreed to permit a “farewell march” across the old bridge, at about 7 p.m. that evening. When it’s over, so is the old bridge, forever.

“After that, work crews will be working 24 hours a day, taking down the jump span, moving around traffic barricades and Jersey barriers, doing some temporary paving, and restriping the roadway on the new bridge,” Pullen said.

On Saturday, February 27, Pullen said party planners are asking neighbors to walk, bike, or take TriMet to the foot of the Sellwood Bridge at 6th Avenue, for the celebration, because of severely limited parking in that area. The party on the bridge will run between noon and 4 p.m.

“People who come will first be greeted at a visitor’s booth on the east end,” Pullen explained. “They they’ll be invited to walk west, where we’ll have set up large, sturdy tents to shelter the vendors, exhibitors, and food carts. Sellwood and Westmoreland area businesses, community groups, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies will be exhibiting there.

“We plan to have some family entertainment — face painting, balloon animals — and our friend in the neighborhood, Henrik Bothe, will be performing his juggling and comedy act,” added Pullen.

The speeches begin about 1 p.m., but organizers say they are encouraging the local, regional, and national officials and dignitaries to be brief. “Then, our dignitaries will cut the ceremonial ribbon.”

Neighborhood schools, Portland Fire & Rescue, and the Portland Police Bureau have been invited to lead off a parade, staged from the west end of the new bridge. “As the parade heads east, we have requested the Portland Fire & Rescue fireboat to shoot up water giving us some pizzazz. The parade will include historic vehicles, neighbors, and school kids.” THE BEE will be there for all this of course!

After the event, workers will continuing to prepare the new Sellwood Bridge for traffic. Although bereft of some of its eventual amenities, the new bridge should reopen for traffic at 6 a.m. on March 1.

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