Harbor Drive

Harbor Drive

Harbor Drive is the name of a street in Portland, Oregon, which was formerly a freeway that carried U.S. Route 99W along the western shore of the Willamette River in the downtown area. While a segment of the road still exists today, the majority of the route (the stretch between the Steel Bridge and the Riverplace Marina) was demolished in 1974, to make way for the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. In doing so, the city of Portland became the first major city in the United States to actually remove an existing freeway; the removal of Harbor Drive is widely considered a milestone in urban planning.

Construction and evolution

Prior to 1950, US 99W entered downtown Portland from the south via Barbur Boulevard, and ran through the downtown area via a couplet on 4th and 6th avenues. US 99W then crossed the Willamette River on the Broadway Bridge towards Interstate Avenue, where it headed north to the Interstate Bridge and the city of Vancouver, Washington.

In 1950, a controlled-access highway, though crude by modern standards, opened and was at least partly known as Harbor Drive. It started with an interchange with Barbur Boulevard, joined the Willamette shore near an interchange with Clay and Market streets, and then ran along the shore to the Steel Bridge. US 99W then crossed the Steel Bridge, and turned north on a controlled-access extension to Interstate Avenue, until it resumed its old routing at an interchange with the Broadway Bridge. It was the first freeway to be completed in Portland, and the only north-south freeway for over a decade.

One block west of Harbor Drive was Front Avenue, then a minor street, and one block west of that was 1st Avenue. Many industrial and commercial buildings were located between Harbor and Front. Harbor Drive connected to the downtown streets, the Hawthorne Bridge and the Morrison Bridge via a series of interchanges.

In 1961, the Baldock Freeway (which at the time extended from Eugene to Tigard) was completed to downtown Portland, and signed as Interstate 5 and (temporarily) as U.S. Route 99. The Baldock Freeway connected with the existing Harbor Drive. In 1966, the Marquam Bridge and the Minnesota Street Freeway were completed, thus making I-5 a contiguous freeway from the California to Washington borders, and making Harbor Drive obsolete as a long-haul thoroughfare.

Removal of the freeway

In 1968, a task force was created by Oregon governor Tom McCall to study options for replacing Harbor Drive with a public place. The task force recommended closure and conversion to a park. (In addition to the decision to close Harbor Drive, other freeway revolts were brewing in Portland against several proposed freeways). Proponents gained leverage when, in 1973, the Fremont Bridge opened, completing Interstate 405 and resulting in a "second" Interstate through the downtown area.

In 1974, Harbor Drive was closed north of Market Street, and construction began on a new park, Waterfront Park. In addition, the buildings between Front Avenue and Harbor Drive were demolished, and Front Avenue (since renamed Naito Parkway after Bill Naito, a local businessman and philanthropist) was widened to a boulevard. The park opened in 1978. In 1984, it was renamed Tom McCall Waterfront Park after the (now deceased) former governor.

Harbor Drive today

The southernmost segment of Harbor Drive still exists, though it is no longer a freeway (several traffic lights have been since constructed, providing access to the Riverplace Marina). If one drives northbound on I-5 towards downtown, and does "not" take the right exits to remain on I-5 or get onto I-405, one is deposited upon the remnants of Harbor Drive. Few signs identify it as such; the exit signs on the freeway indicate the route leads to Naito Parkway, directional signs heading south all say "To I-5". One other remnant of Harbor Drive is a ramp stub from the Hawthorne Bridge which is still standing. That ramp is now a pedestrian and bicycle access ramp so one does not have to ride or walk all the way down to First Avenue in order to access the Waterfront park.

The impact of Harbor Drive

The closure of Harbor Drive is widely considered a significant event in urban planning; the first time a freeway had ever been removed and not replaced. It (along with the subsequent cancellation of Interstate 505 and the Mount Hood Freeway) cemented Portland's reputation as a model of pedestrian- and transit-friendly design. Since the completion of Interstate 205 in the mid 1980s, no new freeways have been built in the city, other than a short realignment of U.S. Route 30 near the Fremont Bridge.

Many other cities in the United States have since demolished freeways as well, or are considering such action. San Francisco is well-known for the (earthquake-assisted) demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway; Boston demolished the elevated portion of Interstate 93 as part of the massive Big Dig project; and Milwaukee removed the Park East Freeway. In addition, Seattle is now considering removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct along the downtown waterfront.

Today, Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a popular destination for sightseers, picnickers, and joggers, and is frequently the site of major civic events such as the Rose Festival fun center.

External links

* [http://www.ylekot.com/orehwys/hwy-1w.html Oregon Highways and Routes: Pacific Highway West]
* [http://www.ylekot.com/orehwys/hwy-1.html Oregon Highways and Routes: Pacific Highway]
* [http://www.parks.ci.portland.or.us/Parks/TomMcCallWaterfront.htm Tom McCall Waterfront Park]
* [http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?&a=24845&c=27928 Image of Harbor Drive, viewed from above Hawthorne Bridge]
* [http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?&a=24848&c=27928 View of Harbor Drive, looking south]
* [http://www.angelfire.com/or3/oroads/roads/us26/index.html ORoads: US Route 26 (contains map which shows former route of Harbor Drive)]
* cite news
title= Transit activist is still on the road not taken
date=December 11, 2006
work=The Oregonian

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