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The Portland that might have been

Posted by on February 16th, 2009 at 10:22 am

I recently came across this image again — it’s the map that might have sealed our fate, developed by Portland city planners in 1966 in response to freeway guru Robert Moses’ vision for the city.

Robert Moses’ freeway plan for the City of Portland

Moses was known for saying “Cities are for traffic,” and he dedicated his career to creating freeway networks inside cities, many of which cut across existing neighborhoods — often the poorest ones.

Story continues below


This map is fascinating. The red lines represent freeways already built. The green ones were planned. Look at how North Going Street, which is slated to be part of one of Portland’s next bike boulevards, would have been a huge expressway. Can you imagine Alberta Street being what it is now if Prescott had been a freeway? And what would have happened to the neighborhoods around SE 20th and SE 52nd?

The green lines are planned freeways, and the Mount Hood Freeway was the first of these that would have been built. It was stopped by a strong grassroots effort, with the support of local political leaders. After that, none of the other projects got rolling, and much of the money that was appropriated for the freeway instead went into other transportation projects like the first MAX light rail line.

For more background on the Mount Hood Freeway fight, check out this Willamette Week story, and this Streetfilm on the topic. And there’s an overview on Wikipedia of the anti-freeway activism that was rampant in that era, with widely varying results.

We’re lucky to have escaped the fate of many other cities — but I hope we are not getting ready, with the Columbia River Crossing project and all the stimulus spending in our near future, to make some of the same mistakes that we avoided forty years ago.

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  • GLV February 16, 2009 at 10:51 am

    That’s not Robert Moses’ freeway plan. He proposed putting what is now I-5 along MLK-Grand, to free up the waterfront for…wait for it…a park. His vision for the city included many parks that we now enjoy.

    Moses was not nearly as evil as he is often portrayed. If you actually read his plans, instead of just media accounts of them, you would know that.

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  • Elly Blue February 16, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Hi GLV,

    That’s interesting, I didn’t know about the I-5 on MLK plan.

    This map wasn’t drawn by Moses — as I pointed out in the story, it was made by Portland city planners in response to his plans and philosophy.

    I actually just checked a biography of him out of the library and am really looking forward to reading more.

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  • Anonymous February 16, 2009 at 11:27 am

    You know the scenes in the movie “The Blob” when townspeople run screaming in terror from the advancing oozing monster?

    That’s the reaction I feel when looking at this freeway map. We are eternally in the debt of the neighborhoods and Mayor Goldschmidt and his allies for changing course.

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  • Donna February 16, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Can you imagine how much worse our state budget crisis would be if ODOT was responsible for the maintenance of all that freeway?

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  • mac February 16, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    “Moses was not nearly as evil as he is often portrayed”…except when he was.

    He was a guy who installed himself in a position of unassailable power, with access to incredible amounts of money who subverted the public process at every opportunity, who had an irrational hatred of public transit in all forms and would go to any length to undermine even the possibility of its use.

    But he wasn’t that bad, for a megalomaniac, a petty dictator; I mean he kissed his wife goodbye every morning and liked puppies.

    ehhh gads.

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  • Dan Kaufman February 16, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Say what you want, Moses’ legacy is not parks. It’s high speed motorways, which seemed like a good idea at the time and to most it still does.

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  • Mike February 16, 2009 at 12:53 pm


    How about an updated map that has more current freeways in blue? That would show where we grew instead of the proposed green.

    In response to your post, are the readers to feel relieved that the city planners did not get their way? As the proposed freeways do not exist, are we to assume that Moses did get his way? That would support GLV’s (thank you) comment about the waterfront park. Your second paragraph seems to portray him as the bad guy, but the evidence supplied indicates otherwise.

    I guess I am at a loss as to what I am to take from this.

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  • Elly Blue February 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Hi Mike,

    Sorry about the confusion.

    I believe that the current freeway map in Portland is very similar to what is portrayed here — I’ll leave it to those who drive ’em on a regular basis to point out specific variations. There wasn’t much new freeway construction after the Mt Hood Freeway was stopped.

    The city planners who created this map were basing it on Robert Moses’s ideas. It sounds like GLV is saying that his specific layout was different than what the mapmakers here envisioned, but the concept — a grid of freeways criss-crossing the city — was the same.

    Does that clear things up?

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  • Dave February 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I’ve also heard that originally I-205 was planned to run along 39th Ave on the East side, but the money in Laurelhurst pushed it back to 52nd, then by the time they actually got to planning it, the city had expanded past 52nd, so they moved it to 92nd, where it actually got built. Can you imagine SE Portland if I-205 had been built along 39th? Ugh, shudder, etc.

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  • Andrew February 16, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Destroying the east bank of the Willamette, tearing out the heart of old Albina, digging a huge trench where Minnesota Ave once was, removing –with the helping hands of the PDC– most of South Portland… more than enough!

    Indeed, it could be argued that the car nearly killed Portland.

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  • Joe Rowe February 16, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks for this article and the discussion that will follow.

    I lived in Houston with 3 huge freeway belts. 610,8,1960 by name. The more you build, the more they clog up, a lesson for our Columba River Bridge. And the Houston solution: Keep adding lanes. In 2004 they added a 14 mile parallel tollway when interstate 10 ( East-West) filled up.

    It is essential we all keep poverty awareness in this discussion. People with less income have no time to build websites, blog and unite to stop freeways or whatever from destroying their community.

    I applaud Ms. Blue and Mr. Maus for their caption

    “many of which cut across existing neighborhoods — often the poorest ones.”

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  • adventure! February 16, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Re: #9, the path of I-205 was moved east from its proposed 52nd Ave alignment to approximately 96th Ave due to a few factors: neighborhood opposition, lower cost of acquiring land (96th Ave was outside of the city limits in unincorporated Multnomah County at the time), and also because of federal prodding. They wanted I-205 to be a true “by-pass” route and they felt the 52nd Ave alignment would be too close to town. (Please correct me if I’m wrong on any of this!)

    And to toot my own horn a li’l bit:
    I’ll be leading another Dead Freeways Ride on Saturday April 11th:
    This time I’ll be sticking to the Eastside so we can go into greater detail on things like the 52nd Ave Freeway.

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  • steve February 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Ms Blue wrote-

    “Can you imagine Alberta Street being what it is now if Prescott had been a freeway?”

    Perhaps the freeway would have kept the yuppies and hipsters at bay. No gentrification. Sounds better to me!

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  • John February 16, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I don’t have to imagine what it might have been like: During my life, I’ve seen what I-205 did to east Vancouver.

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  • brettoo February 16, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Let me endorse Shawn’s Dead Freeways ride. I went on the last one and there’s nothing like actually seeing in person what’s there now and then imagining (with his informed assistance) what might have been. Or to see highways that are there and imagine what it might have been like if they hadn’t been built. Seeing this stuff on a map is powerful in its own way, but seeing it in person, with historical context supplied, really opens your eyes. I hope to be on the next ride, too.

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  • Peter February 16, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    everything i’ve ever read about Moses suggests pure evil. dude displaced tens of thousands of poor black people so white people could drive into and through the city (even though he didn’t drive himself), and poison anyone who lived near the highways.

    Robert Moses was to highway expansion as Ariel Sharon was to settlement expansion.

    he deserves to be front and center in the livable streets hall of shame.

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  • a-dub February 16, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Here’s the interesting thing about the map, the red lines are the freeways that are in existence today, but some were not in existence in 1966 and others were planned. For example. I205 and the Fremont Bridge were not complete in 1966 and the Mt. Hood Freeway was still very much alive. So, while I’ve seen this map before, I’m not sure that it hasn’t been altered since 1966. Elly, where did you get the map from? My guess is that someone added the red lines in after 1966 to show which of the freeways ended up getting built.

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  • Spencer Boomhower February 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    52nd Ave Freeway

    Eep, that’s my street. I have to say, I much prefer it in its non-freeway state.

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  • Elly Blue February 16, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    A-dub, someone (Matt Picio, I think) showed up to a meeting with a big paper version of the map years ago. I ran across it again doing a google image search for “mt hood freeway” that turned up this page:

    I don’t know the origin of Matt’s hardcopy but it definitely had the same red and green lines. Maybe those were freeways already in the pipeline?

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  • a-dub February 16, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    I-205 wasn’t completed until the 80s with the building of the Glenn Jackson Bridge across the Columbia. The route through Clackamas County was completed in the early 70s but a similar grassroots movement was started to stop the I-205 through what would become East Portland delayed construction until the late 70s.

    Matt, any additional insight on the map and the colored lines?

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  • a-dub February 16, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    PS. As for already being in the pipeline in ’66, there would have been no difference between the Mt. Hood Freeway and the East Portland Freeway (I-205). Also, I love map and the discussion and really wanted to partake in the last Dead Freeways ride, but am just trying to clarify so as not to spread any misconceptions (not that I think you are trying to doing that).

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  • a-dub February 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Sorry for the multiple posts. Feel free to consolidate them. Here is the link to the original WWeek article:

    My guess is that they took the ’66 map and added the red lines. That’s it I’m done.

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  • Elly Blue February 16, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks a-dub!

    Anyone here able to to shed some light?

    It’s going on my rainy day projects list…

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  • Michael M. February 16, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Moses was scary, because he wasn’t “pure evil.” He had the best of intentions from the get-go, dedicating himself to helping the impoverished. He didn’t so much seek power for it’s own sake as amass it as a means of enacting his vision, woe be to those who stood in his way. Were he South American, he’d be Chavez. Were he Cuban, he’d be Castro. He wasn’t exactly a megalomaniac like Hitler or Mussolini, but he was every bit as tyrannical. I wish Portland’s more belligerent self-styled “progressives” would learn a lesson from the trajectory of Moses’s sad career, because so many can be every bit as intransigent, with the same “good intentions” of course.

    Along the way he destroyed numerous neighborhoods and communities, and devastated the Bronx so severely that it has really never fully recovered.

    Highly recommended: “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York” by Robert Caro. One of the best books ever about New York City and about American political power, its uses and abuses. It should be required reading for everyone, anywhere, who even thinks about serving on a municipal or county board, or running for office.

    Portland is lucky it escaped.

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  • SkidMark February 16, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Wow, it looks like you could have actually gotten around the city in an efficient manner by car, instead of passing your destination on the freeway and having to backtrack on surface streets for 3-5 miles. That’s why there’s so much slow moving traffic here, not enough freeways, with not enough exits.

    Of course if there wasn’t so much slow moving traffic, I would have never parked my motorcycle and started riding bicycles again.

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  • mark February 16, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    I grew up in Dallas, so to live somewhere that resisted the freeway build up is great. it is a bit annoying sometimes when you do drive a car to get around in this city. But I feel it is a small price to pay for what we have and it also encourages me to get around on bikes more and see the city in a way that I never would speeding by in a car.

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  • brettoo February 16, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    ” That’s why there’s so much slow moving traffic here, not enough freeways….”

    Ah! I see now! That’s why traffic moves so fast and smooth in those other cities, like LA, that built so many more freeways than we did.

    Also, ditto on The Power Broker, one of the great biographies of the 20th century. Then go read Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities to appreciate the real damage he did.

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  • Pete February 16, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    The worst traffic I’ve ever driven in was in Houston, as well as the most animosity and resistance to alternate-car merging. I drove my friend’s Mini virtually underneath a Hummer refusing to let me merge. My buddy who lives there now has lived and driven in many countries and says Houston’s the worst, and I grew up driving in Boston. I can’t imagine being a bike commuter in some of those Texas cities… you folks deserve a ton of credit!

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  • Pete February 17, 2009 at 12:03 am

    brettoo (#28): Boston eliminated its traffic by adding lanes and burying them underneath the city to create lovely green parks. It was a quick and inexpensive project, as I’m sure the CRC will be.


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  • Streetsblog » Today’s Headlines February 17, 2009 at 5:58 am

    […] If Portland Had Been Overrun by Freeways? (BikePortland via […]

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  • carless in pdx February 17, 2009 at 6:33 am

    They sure spared no expense when they built the 405, bulldozing dozens of blocks of some of the most expensive land in the state of Oregon and building a deep trench for the freeway to sit in. If you look at pre-1960s photos, there was no ravine between NW/Goosehollow and downtown.

    Cost really wasn’t that big of an issue; moneyed politics was. You don’t piss off the wealthy movers and shakers in a city when you need to bulldoze a couple hundred blocks and make a few tens of thousands of people homeless. Much easier to eminent domain crappy tenements, as renters don’t have a say in their fate.

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  • Lenny Anderson February 17, 2009 at 9:03 am

    The notion that one should be able to drive at 60 mph thru the heart of a city is absurd, if not criminal.
    Time to start taking out some freeways…starting with the Eastbank Freeway and Marquam Bridge…and return the land to better uses.
    I think the last version of the Porland freeway system map was from ODOT in ’69 when the air pollution as so bad you could not see Mt Hood on a clear day.

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  • OnTheRoad February 17, 2009 at 9:59 am

    What about the Sellwood Freeway? That would have solved that bridge problem and Tacoma as a neighborhood street issue.

    Re: the Mt. Hood, at least inner SE has a few pocket parks and community gardens that weren’t there before – where houses and land were acquired for the freeway.

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  • Michelle February 17, 2009 at 10:13 am

    You can read more about the Moses report here:

    And on this page you can also download a nice summary the Planning Dept has prepared on Portland’s Great Plans (including, for example, Olmstead’s parks plan for the city). At the moment the links seem to be broken but they may be fixed soon.

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  • Vance February 17, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Now, now. It’s not fair to discuss the impact transportation expansion has on poor people in Portland without also pointing out that the exodus from California, and the MidWest has impacted them in far more negative ways. North and Northeast Portland were thriving minority communities prior to their residents being displaced by mostly young, liberal, affluent whites, into the Rockwood, and Gresham neighborhoods.

    Nothing is ever good enough for this crowd. Transportation sucks. The politicians are too conservative, blah, blah. I mean, then why the hell did you move here in the first place? We’re not talking about progress here. I’m not some aging white-male resisting change. This city has doubled in size in one decade. Quadrupled in size in two. That’s what you call extraordinary. Unprecedented.

    I, for one, try to imagine what Portland would have been like without two million of the country’s most entitled, liberal, dilettantes living in it? At the very least, the traffic was lighter.

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  • a-dub February 17, 2009 at 10:58 am

    “This city has doubled in size in one decade. Quadrupled in size in two. That’s what you call extraordinary. Unprecedented.”


    According to the U.S. Census Bureau
    Portland Population:
    1990: 437,319
    2000: 529,121
    2007: 550,396
    That jump in population from 1990 to 2000 was from annexation not immigration

    If you are talking about the region as a whole your numbers still don’t add up:

    Multnomah County:
    2007: 701,986
    2000: 660,486
    1990: 583,887

    Washington County:
    2007: 522,514
    2000: 445,342
    1990: 311,554

    Clackamas County:
    2007: 376,251
    2000: 338,391
    1990: 278,850

    Clark County (WA):
    2007: 418,070
    2000: 345,238
    1990: 238,053

    I’m not going to add in Yamhill, Columbia, Marion Counties

    That gives you a core metro area population of:

    2007: 2,018,905
    2000: 1,789,457
    1990: 1,412,344

    That gives you a growth rate of:
    13% from 2000 to 2007
    26% from 1990 to 2000
    42% from 1990 to 2007

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  • matt picio February 17, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Elly (#20) – yep, that was me. Once I can figure out a way to reproduce the paper map (anyone have access to a giant scanner?) then I will post that particular 1966 Portland Development map. My map shows a few things that aren’t on this one, like the freeways up on the peninsula and the extra 3 bridges crossing the Columbia into Vancouver.

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  • matt picio February 17, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Here are some pictures I took of the 1966 planning map I have (Elly, bikeportland is permitted to use any of these if you’d like to update the story to use one):

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  • Whyat February 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I’m sorry a-dub. When did your ancestors move to Oregon? When was the line drawn to stop new residents? What Native American tribe do you belong to?

    People leave states when conditions there become unlivable. It’s happened over the entire course of our nation’s history. When Oregon becomes too unlivable for you, then please, feel free to move on.

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  • a-dub February 17, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Whyat, not sure what you are referring to? I was quoting Vance @36 who claimed the city had grown at such a rapid pace I was simply pointing out that it was actually a reasonably moderate pace.

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  • Zaphod February 17, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Thank you Whyat (#41) for a little level setting. The complaint from long term Oregon residents about anyone arriving more recently has grown stale.

    It’s surprising to me that, on a bike-centric blog, there are people commenting in the positive for more freeways. Have we learned nothing about urban design and livable cities?

    We have piles of data that suggest more capacity generates more traffic while more multi-mode transportation reduces everyone’s commute while increasing quality of life. It’s perplexing why people fight this.

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  • Erik February 17, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I think we should remove I-5 through the city, renaming I-205 as I-5. Freeways should run around/next to cities, not through them.

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  • brettoo February 17, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    That’s the strategy Vancouver BC, practically alone among large North American cities, followed, and it seems to have done pretty well in spite of — or more likely because of — not having freeways carving up its central city.

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  • browneyes February 17, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    I live on Prescott and sometimes it feels like a freeway. Cops like to use it to speed down. I guess that’s what happens when there are only two lights (and no stop signs) between MLK and 33rd.

    “Freeways should run around/next to cities, not through them.” – erik

    I couldn’t agree more. I-35 halves several big cities in Texas. Ask anyone who has driven it through San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, or Ft. Worth and they will tell you it’s a mess.

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  • Peter February 17, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    i used to live next to I-35 in Austin, right next to the uni, there. i would say it definitely contributed to my disgust for cars and highways and all things anti-human.

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  • SkidMark February 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    brettoo, ever live in So Cal? Coming close to downtown Los Angeles there is always going to be tons of traffic. In the outerlying parts and up and down the coast and accross the Inland Empire you can definitely get around faster down there than up here. I moved to Portland from San Diego, which is beautiful despite the fact that you are usually within 2 miles of a freeway entrance. You can get exactly where you are going most of the time with very little travel on surface roads. This means that there is much less traffic on surface roads, which is what I thought bicyclists wanted. Apparently you’d prefer frustrated drivers backtracking on sidestreets and jogging over a block or two every mile or so for “traffic calming”. Sorry, but Portland has some of the most ridiculous ideas about how to alleviate traffic, with the exception of riding bikes more. In fact that’s about the only way to get around here in an enjoyable manner, unless you enjoy waiting for people to find the gas pedal after the light turns green, only to stop again two blocks away.

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  • shawn. February 17, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    So SkidMark, you’d prefer the destruction of neighborhoods for more freeways, just so that you can “get around faster”?

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  • brettoo February 17, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    “Ask anyone who has driven it through San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, or Ft. Worth and they will tell you it’s a mess.”

    I have. It is.
    I’ve also driven more than I’d like in LA, Pasadena, a bit of O.C. though not San Diego. The freeways are usually jammed. And even when new ones come along, eventually, they jam up again (induced demand) as drivers modify their behavior to fill the (briefly) not jammed new roads.
    As VAncouver BC has demonstrated, congestion can actually be a friend to mobility (and save billions of dollars), as drivers start taking alternative means of transportation, making it overall easier for people to get around — just not in SOV cars.
    Also, in the few cases where inner city freeways have been taken out (like the Bay Area’s earthquake-damaged Embarcadero), nearby neighborhoods have revived. In town freeways strangle neighborhoods.

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  • Dave February 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    I think a lot of Portland is quite enjoyable to drive through, as long as you don’t expect to go 55mph. I personally much prefer to live at 10-25mph, no matter what kind of transport I’m taking.

    It cheapens the destination if you don’t enjoy the ride. The ride shouldn’t be just a means to get where you’re going as quickly as possible. Plan for it and enjoy it. I think that’s what makes biking viable for most people, more than getting a racing bike and averaging 30mph and being able to get places just as fast as if you were driving. The ability to relax and enjoy the ride itself.

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  • todd February 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    sweet christ what a crime it would have been to run freeways on se 20th and 52nd avenues! all those lovely old houses razed, the noise, the eyesore, the utter ruin of all the high-speed access feeders… SHUDDER! today, of course, that idea is just a distant nightmare, but it’s instructive to consider that within my lifetime, it was a serious proposal. it had to be fought.

    40 years from now, how will a freaking 12-lane CRC look? boils down to whether you believe private high-speed motor vehicle transport will remain the norm, even in cities. i don’t see any reason to believe that it can.

    now powell, that’s already an automotive gutter/ghetto; not sure it being a freeway would be so much worse.

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  • SkidMark February 17, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    No shawn I wouldn’t prefer the destruction of Portland neighborhoods. I think the time for building freeways has come and went. I would not mind a few more exits off I-84, because having no exit for 40 blocks (MLK to Hollywood) just means cars have to get around there on surface roads or backtrack 10-20 blocks to get somewhere in the middle.

    I believe I stated that I get around faster (or at least more enjoyably) by bike.

    Please brettoo, I parked my motorcycle when I moved to Portland because I never got it out of second gear. I could use all 6 gears to their fullest in So Cal. There would not be such a culture of speed (cars/motorcycles) in California if you didn’t have the ability to drive fast or drive for the fun of it.

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  • Matt Picio February 17, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    SkidMark, I respect your opinion, but I disagree – look at Seattle, which has a fair number of exits and ridiculous traffic. Chicago, Detroit, D.C. and Hampton Roads are all a disaster, and they all have a large network of freeways bisecting them. Detroit is probably the most glaring example, despite being a fully built-out and bisected city with many freeways, some 10-12 lanes in cross-section. I’m sure San Diego works – I know it as fantastic in 1987 – but San Diego isn’t Portland, and just because it worked there doesn’t mean it would have here. (of course, Detroit is not an indicator of what Portland would have been like either)

    I guess what I’m saying is that I can point to many more examples of where the freeway build-out damaged a metropolitan area that where it helped it.

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  • Todd B February 17, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    A point of history for some of the threads being discussed:
    – Mosses’ NYC park works were better than his later work (perhaps due to too much power vs. Concept)
    – A lot of mid century highways were barriers before highway engineers retooled them (they were often major rail corridors like Central Expressway in Dallas)
    -much of NYC planning processes were changed to make another city powerbroker like Mosses impossible, now some say it is too hard to make the improvements necessary to serve NYCs population with up to date facilities (what I have read)

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  • SkidMark February 17, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    I’ve driven and ridden bikes in Seattle. If it wasn’t rush hour the traffic was not bad, and you could certainly get around faster up there by car than down here.

    I’m sorry Matt, but when cars get to their destination faster they are on the road for less time, and when they can take the freeway directly to their destination and not have to travel 2 miles on sidestreets back in the direction they just came from they cover less distance, use less gas, and are off the road sooner. This is just common sense, it’s just math.

    The thing that kills these urban areas is not the freeway itself, but all the people that end up driving on it, until it is eventually packed solid. The only thing that will alleviate that is alternate modes of transportation, including buses and commuter trains.

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  • rainperimeter February 17, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    john @ 15. i hear you on that. the vancouver of my childhood is a distant memory when i see the vancouver of today (i’m 32). dad is still over there, no more than a mile from 205. it’s so awful!

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  • carless in pdx February 17, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    Building freeways induces demand (auto), which gets more people to drive. It also encourages more suburban development – the real sprawl, environment-destroying paving over of undeveloped areas.

    Empirical evidence has conclusively proved (by the city and ODOT) that traffic is more concentrated and more people speed near freeway onramps and offramps.

    Want a radical solution to make a city safer? Ban cars.

    There are so many different cities out there that approach transportation in very different ways. However, Portland is one of the lowest-density cities in the entire country.

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  • Opus the Poet February 17, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    From on the ground in TX, I 35 is becoming a solid stretch of urban sprawl from the Mexican border until mid-Oklahoma, and is expected to reach solid to Kansas by 2020. Central Expressway is still a barrier. only now it is a barrier from downtown Dallas all the way to Sherman, 60 miles to the north. There are stretches in Garland on either side of LBJ (I 635) that it’s a 10 mile walk to get from one side to the other, and you can see your destination before starting the trip. And don’t get me started about the number of people killed trying to get from one side of the highway to the other, it doesn’t even make the news any more when someone dies crossing LBJ… I spoke with the people that plan these monstrosities and they have absolutely no idea about the mess they create. The Bike/Ped working group meets in a building that has no bike or ped access. There are no places within walking distance to get food or drinks, but there is a C-store and gas station about a mile away from the building, so I guess you could get sodas and snacks there… I have been working this problem for 2 years now as a member of the transportation ministry at my church, which just recently changed their name to Sacred Journey Fellowship. I don’t know if they knew the irony of the name change for my committee, but it made it much more effective for me. They are still building freeways like there is no tomorrow, one is going in about 2 miles from my house. The President George Bush Turnpike [gag], it started as 3 lanes but had to be expanded to 4 in each direction before they even completed it, and they left enough shoulder to add 2 more lanes and still keep reasonable breakdown lanes, the pavement has already been laid it just needs to be restriped to make it usable with 6 lanes in each direction.

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  • Lenny Anderson February 18, 2009 at 9:44 am

    The Eisenhower era Interstates were modeled on the Nazi Autobahns, except for one thing…the latter go around metro areas not thru their hearts. Frankfurt a/Main, not Europe’s most beautiful city, though my favorite, has a string of museums on the bank of the Main River opposite downtown. We have the Eastbank Freeway and the region’s ugliest bridge. For what? to save someone driving thru town a couple of minutes. Just call I-405, I-5 or make I-205, I-5 and take the damn thing out.

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  • Spencer Boomhower February 18, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    #56 SkidMark

    “I’ve driven and ridden bikes in Seattle. If it wasn’t rush hour the traffic was not bad, and you could certainly get around faster up there by car than down here.

    I’m sorry Matt, but when cars get to their destination faster they are on the road for less time, and when they can take the freeway directly to their destination and not have to travel 2 miles on sidestreets back in the direction they just came from they cover less distance, use less gas, and are off the road sooner. This is just common sense, it’s just math.”

    I can see where you’re going with this, but my experience has led me to different conclusions.

    I lived, drove and biked in Seattle for a couple years, and then moved to Portland, where I’ve lived (and driven, and biked) for 7 or so years.

    In an email from around the time of the move, I told a friend that a big reason I was moving to Portland was so that I could get around on a bike “without feeling like I have a target on my back”. That’s what cycling in Seattle felt like to me: dangerous, and nerve-rattling, in large part because of the aggressive, fast-moving car traffic. It discouraged me from riding, and I drove more when I lived in Seattle.

    (Incidentally, I found that driving in Seattle was OK going north/south, but a lot harder going east/west. Jimi Hendrix is from Seattle, and my theory is that “Crosstown Traffic” was an ode to his hometown :). The freeways were mostly horrible though, exept on the few hours they weren’t jammed.)

    To visit friends in Portland and bike around here was a breath of fresh air, and to move back here was like returning to the promised land. The roads feel safer, more comfortable, and welcoming to cyclists here, and amenities are near enough that I basically – and effortlessly – hardly ever drive here. By “effortlessly” I mean that it’s no act of self-motivation or dicipline for me to ride my bike in Portland. I’m no athelete – I dislike sweating and wheezing – and I tend to err on the side of comfort. It’s Portland’s calm, welcoming streets – streets in which I don’t feel nearly as endangered by cars as I did in Seattle – that get me on my bike. I now go weeks without driving, without even trying.

    And if I do have to drive, I prefer doing that in Portland too. As long as I don’t have to get on a mother****ing freeway.

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  • Ryan February 18, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    I’m kind of on the fence about Moses and his legacy.

    One thing that complicates evaluating his effect on Portland is that he was hired to come here and write a plan. According to the BOPSD website: “an influential group of bankers, real estate interests and industrialists appointed by the mayor invited Robert Moses to develop a plan for Portland.”

    It’s easy to paint him as an evil figure in NY where there wasn’t really a choice about who was making the plans. If you’re going to criticize him for what he did (or almost did) to Portland though, you have to realize that the Portland elite knowingly hired a meglomaniac freeway builder to make plans for us. Whatever credit or blame you want to pin on Moses ought to be shared with the folks that brought him here.

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  • Jim Lee February 18, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Has anyone noticed that the NEW AND APPROVED Sellwood bridge plan has enough width for four full motor lanes in its middle and what looks like six at each end? ODOT’s revenge?

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  • John Russell February 19, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    First let me say that the November 2008 Dead Freeways ride was an excellent one. I spend a good deal of time reading about all of these things, and I still learned a great deal of new stuff. It certainly helps to have such a good guide.

    As for I-205, just take a look at the east side of Vancouver. I’ve lived there my entire life of less than twenty years and it has already changed so much thanks to that lovely freeway’s induced demand. Download the newest version of Google Earth and look at their historic imagery. In Vancouver, you can look all of the way back to 1990. Take a look at 164th Ave. To the east, nothing but fields back then. Now it’s a six-lane road with nothing but strip malls.

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  • Freeway Dreams « Price Tags March 6, 2009 at 9:25 am

    […] also an update that links to the story of all the proposed freeways (conceived by New York’s Robert Moses) for […]

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  • Nick June 10, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    A lot of people on here posted things along the line of “can you imagine Alberta if this highway had been built” or “Can you imagine 39th if…” etc…
    I keep wondering how awesome those the neighborhoods that the freeways actually got built in could have been without them.

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  • Trish Hunt December 29, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Darn, if those freeways had been built then it would be much easier to cycle through the streets without all those cars around me. We could have become the Amsterdam of the USA, where Amsterdam has 30% of all commuter movements being by bicycle, because all that additional ground level roadspace could have been converted to bicycle lanes. What a pity they were never built.

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  • Bob December 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I have to say that a number of the comments on this blog are emotive and don’t serve to help those who are interested in promoting alternative means of commuting to work. Neither do they consider transportation outside of rush hour (8 hours / weekday), which is the majority of the time (16 hours / weekday, and the weekend).

    As a cyclist who commutes to work, I believe we need freeways to ensure graded separation from the bicycles. The roads that are left behind can then be reconfigured to allow dedicated trolley car lines (separated from the cars, so they can move efficiently instead of getting stuck in traffic) and separated/dedicated bicycle lanes.

    An alternative to this would be to build elevated trolley car lines and bicycle lanes in place of the proposed freeways. This would make it easier for us to commute to work via alternate means to the car. The existing road network could remain dedicated to the car and be used when cycling or using PT is impractical, e.g. during severe weather events and out of hours (shift workers, etc, when cycling can be too dangerous and PT is not operating).

    On top of that emergency services do use the road network and we don’t want them to be late when we need them.

    One thing that people have neglected to mention is why the roads are getting more and more jammed and the answer to that is population growth. It’s obvious but ignored. If population growth is eliminated then there won’t be any additional cars, bikes, trolley cars needed.

    Urban sprawl and induced traffic’s number one cause is population growth. So we have a choice here – no economic growth (i.e. more of the GFC) or accept that there were be more cars on the road, more cyclists on the road and more PT services needed. Maybe we should look to converting single occupant cars to motorcycles in addition to increasing PT and bicycles.

    SF stopped building freeways in the 1950’s, but we are 50 years on from that. That is Korean War thinking. Times have changed and so must we.

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