The Dead Freeway Society

The Strange History of Portland's Unbuilt Roads


Time to Add CRC to the list
The Willamette Week wrote this article 4 years ago, and included a cool map. Unfortunately the map isn't on their website:
Nice article, but once again Robert Moses is given more credit than he is due. Moses included a Fremont Bridge in his 1943 plans, but a bridge in that vicinity had been an idea floating around since at least 1921. It shows up in a planning report by Charles Cheney at that time. Moses' 1943 plan was focused on inner and outer loops around the city, not the criss-cross of freeways that were suggested later. For a real wow factor, I suggest people find a copy of the Oregon Highway Division's 1955 report "Freeway and Expressway System" for Portland. That's where 14 freeways and other major roadways were recommended. It is quite interesting to a transportation history geek like myself.

Also, the Willamette Week article from a few years ago mis-identified the map they used showing the web of freeways. It was not Moses' map they used, rather it was a mid 1960s Portland Planning Commission map. Moses was certainly a powerful figure, but he was only one of several urban planning types who came to Portland in the first half of the 20th century. Many of his recommendations were just re-hashed suggestions from studies dating back (at least) to Bennett's 1912 Greater Portland Plan, if not earlier.
Great story, Sarah.

The parallels between the current CRC plan and some of the other, equally stupid ideas in the past are so obvious it's scary.
Great to see some historical perspective. Thanks!
I just something about this on Lost Oregon's twitter account a week or so ago.
It's worth noting the term "Mt Hood" Freeway was a misnomer - it would have run just between the Marquam Bridge and I-205 in Lents, no further east than that. And even that would have destroyed 1% of the housing in the city.
Excellent work. Looks like a lot of research, and tedium.

"It's another one of these roads that's being espoused as 'We have to have it in order to make everybody's lives easier,'" says Ballestrem. "But it's going to do the same thing that all these other big roads did. Building a bigger road is just going to encourage driving the automobile."

I'm frustrated with ordinary citizen groups drawing conclusions of this sort, they're usually unqualified to assert such things. I'm happy to see that civics remain a hobby for some folks, but I'm disinclined to accept people's personal feelings and opinions about transportation policy as an end-all be-all solution to planning our infrastructure.

The last line of this quote sums it all up. It belies the true nature of opposition to the CRC, and is the undertone for broader opposition. Last I checked part of the whole American identity, one of the founding principles of this nation, is that of personal freedom. Considering what personal choices your neighbor makes is invasive, and oppressive.

Sorry to disappoint but this may not be the time to meddle in other people's personal affairs. Though commuter and other personal transportation utilizes this bridge, it is also a commercial transport corridor. I'm sure it's gratifying to exercise control over people's lives with whom you disagree with how they should be living, but there are other considerations.

This is the, "Greenest", river crossing plan ever proposed by man. Period. The very opposition to this being done is creating cost over-runs that aren't going to diminish the likelihood this bridge will get built, they're serving only to strip the, "Green", accoutremon, the bike path, and the transit facility, that have been added to placate the environmentalist fringe running this project by remote-control.

Insinuating that a history of minority-groups interfering with urban-planning is justification to continue this policy is simply asinine.
Nice story.

One related subject worthy of further exploration is the oft-discussed removal of I-5 from the east bank (and changing 205 to 5 and what is now 5 and 405 to something else). This would do the polar opposite for the central city that a mega-CRC would do: open up the east side of the river up to people and make the Willamette the "central boulevard" of the city, as it should be. Portland will never reach its potential without this being accomplished.
Thanks for the clarification, Val (Valb) -- you bring up some important distinctions.

James V. Hillegas
good article from a couple of months ago that spotlights harbor drive, as well as the cheonggycheon highway in seoul...a freeway that paved over a river which was recently restored.…
Nice perspective, Vance...
Vance: "Sorry to disappoint but this may not be the time to meddle in other people's personal affairs. Though commuter and other personal transportation utilizes this bridge, it is also a commercial transport corridor. I'm sure it's gratifying to exercise control over people's lives with whom you disagree with how they should be living, but there are other considerations." Well I live in N. Portland so forgive me if I'm of the opinion that constructing this bridge will increase traffic and pollution in my neighborhood. Isn't that meddling in my personal affairs by building a this thing? I ain't buying your bridge, go sel it somewhere else. There are other options than spending 4.5b that our congressional reps say we probably won't get anyway. And you also say that we should support the bridge now or our "green" "accoutremon" will be stripped. You're a douche bag.
I'm a little late here, but there are a couple factual corrections. RM did come to Portland with a team of experts in 1943. He only stayed 6 days, however, went back to NYC, and then returned to present the report on Nov. 9.

While Commissioner William Bowes was a great Moses fan, it was Edgar Kaiser who actually invited Moses and got local public agencies to pony up $100,000 (real money in those days) for the consultation. Kaiser, of courses, was the guy who managed 100,000 shipyard workers and was also responsible for the construction of Vanport to help house his workers.

As for dead freeways, the alterntive route for I-405 would have taken it closer to PGE Park and then down Clay Street, leaving the site of PSU outside downtown rather than inside. It was engineering considerations that tilted the decision, since the current rouote has easier curves.

Carl Abbott
Awesome story.
Nice job on this story, Sarah. I'd argue that the earlier Willamette Week article overlaps and is a good companion piece, but not the same story. (Not that it's a competition or anything). As someone who has lived in the SE Portland neighborhoods that would have been bulldozed, I shudder to think what our city would be like had these freeway plans materialized.
Awesome article, but you missed the obvious difference between then & now. Then, they built for the future, thinking and planning and building ahead. It cost millions then, it would cost billions now. Currently we think only of the present. No real plan for the future, just "all new people to Portland should not drive". Because we are embarking on a $4 Billion project that will only rebuild the exact same bridge we have had for 70 years. 3 lanes of cars both ways. 12 lanes is a farse since 2 are walking, 2 are bikes, and 2 are trains. What happens as the Eastside grows and we cannot widen 205 because we spent billions on a train to run 5 miles and serve 3% of the people. I-5 through downtown where it is 2 lanes wide!? Will we ever expand and widen 217? There is no planning for the future, and yes Portland has chosen that direction for its roads, its last remaining businesses, and its dim economy; the road less traveled. People, business, and jobs (tax revenue) all travel roads.