PORTLAND -- As Portland considers the "what-ifs" of a huge earthquake locally, experts worry about the extreme vulnerability of area bridges.
If an earthquake the size of Japan's were to hit Portland, experts have confidence that only the Marquam Bridge over the Willamette River would remain standing and usable. All the other bridges, they said, were simply too old or too vulnerable to rely on.
"I would say that we're probably a little bit more vulnerable than Japan has been," said Peter Dusicka, a PSU Associate Professor of Civil Engineering.
He added that Japan has "learned a lot since their Kobe earthquake and have implemented a lot of those things whereas here, we haven't really been familiar with earthquake risk for long enough to make the investment."
The viaduct on Highway 99 crossing Division Street in Southeast Portland has been undergoing a multi-year, $70 million dollar upgrade which includes modern-day seismic enhancements. It will be earthquake resistant by next year.
Although the state has been monitoring a list of vulnerable bridges - such as the I-5 Bridge over the Columbia River - officials have said that there's currently no funding program to brace those many bridges in need of major earthquake upgrades.