Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Historic Depave Portland

As previously mentioned, the main drag along the Willamette was formerly a multi-lane highway named Harbor Drive, which was removed in the mid-1970's to make way for the current resident along the river, Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

:: image via Portland Mercury

:: image via Flickr - William200549

Text, from the article 'The Dead Freeway Society' in the Portland Mercury, outlines this paradigm shift in a decade from planning massive expansion to promotion of removal:

"The first freeway to dissolve was Harbor Drive. Built in 1942, the wide slab of asphalt ran over what is today Tom McCall Waterfront Park, now where tourists and idyllic children roam with ice cream, Barack Obama spoke, and once a year the Oregon Symphony shoots live cannons in a performance of the 1812 Overture. In the '50s and '60s, the freeway, streaming with big-finned cars, was featured on postcards promoting a modern Portland. By 1975, it was gone.

"There was a shift in local government in the late-'60s. It went from a good-old-boy network to a much younger generation of politicians," explains Ballestrem. Urban planning historian Gregory L. Thompson wrote that when one young politician arrived in Portland in 1973, the politico noted that everyone had a copy of anti-freeway handbook Rites of Way tucked into their hip pocket.

When the state began buying up land next to Harbor Drive to widen the waterfront freeway in 1968, a citizen alliance against the expansion found open ears at city hall and the governor's office. Old-school traffic engineers said closing the freeway would be a disaster, but Governor Tom McCall, Mayor Neil Goldschmidt, and County Commissioner Don Clark heard the citizens' opinion that most car traffic could be rerouted to the city's newly built freeways, like the I-5. Throughout the summer of '69, Portlanders organized "consciousness-raising picnics" to rally people against Harbor Drive. Three years later, a governor's task force declared that the low-traffic, 30-year-old road should be ripped out and replaced with a park."

While not one of the stellar park spaces in town, the park really acts as a front yard to downtown, and is also a major pedestrian throughfare, as well as a consistent field for festivals throughout the summer.

:: image via Friends for our Riverfront

:: image via Portland Ground

:: image via uyau

The results aren't half-bad for a former highway.

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