I was just recently remembering that Portland’s waterfront park used to be an expressway, designed by good old Robert Moses, and I thought it would be interesting to do a post about this.
Back in the 1970′s, citizens of Portland, in response to plans to widen what was then called Harbor Drive, lobbied and convinced city and state governments to remove the highway altogether, and in its place, to build a park.
Photo linked from www.portlandonline.com
In the photo above, you can see Portland’s Hawthorne bridge in the bottom left corner, and the highway running right along the waterfront is Harbor Drive. It’s hard for me to imagine the city this way, as the highway was gone before I was born.
These days, the waterfront park is one of the most iconic public spaces in Portland. That first photo shows an off-ramp looping from the Hawthorne bridge down onto Harbor Drive. This second photo is taken from the bottom part of that off-ramp, which is now for pedestrians and cyclists only, and rather than curving down onto a highway, curves down onto a beautiful lawn with a wide concrete path. This space is used by people everyday for transportation (I ride through here everyday on the way to work), exercise, recreation – during the summer many large festivals are held throughout the park, including the Rose Festival (kind of the main event of all Portland festivals), and now the Saturday Market has moved part of its vendors into a new space in the park near the Burnside Bridge.
Here are a few more photos of what the space looks like now:
And it’s afforded me many views such as this on my way through:
We went for a bike ride down to the Saturday Market on the first really warm day of Spring this year, and here is a video of some of the footage. It was a beautiful day, everyone relaxed, walking, biking, sitting and talking… A little bit different feeling than a highway.