Is Anybody Using the Little House on Top of the Steel Bridge?

We dragged up Dr. Know’s column from exactly 10 years ago.

Steel Bridge. (Brian Burk)

Editor’s note: Dr. Know is visiting some old friends in jail this week, so we dragged up his column from exactly 10 years ago.

I was wondering if the city is using the little house on top of the Steel Bridge? If it’s for lease, I think a hardwood floor and some IKEA furniture could transform it into a sweet pad. And I promise not to raise the bridge during rush hour to impress the ladies. —Looking to Rent Closer In

Looking, you silly little man, your dream of the ultimate river-view studio is touchingly, if hopelessly, naive. Kiss me, you fool.

It will probably come as no surprise even to you that the “little houses” (more properly called “operator rooms”) on our city’s drawbridges are not available for by-the-hour rental as your personal mogambo pit.

The one on the Steel Bridge, for example, is right out: It’s occupied 24/7 by an actual live bridge operator. Some of the county-operated bridges—think Morrison and Burnside—are vacant, except when somebody has to raise the span.

The difference could be that the Steel Bridge is run by Union Pacific Railroad, a private corporation that (a) doesn’t have to justify every manhour to tightwad taxpayers and (b) sounds fun to sue if someone got killed on the bridge because nobody was around to keep an eye on things.

This latter danger is actually the main reason you can’t roll into that little house with a bearskin rug and a bottle of Jacques Bonet (“The Beer of Champagnes®”) and start booty-calling all your old co-workers from the cattle-rendering plant. The truth is that all the bridges can be operated remotely, costing taxpayers next to nothing.

However, given the white-hot stupidity that burns in the heart of every Portland pedestrian, cyclist and motorist, it’s deemed too risky to send 9 million pounds of steel flailing through space unsupervised. Thus, the on-site operator, and no love shack for you.

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