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Portland Area's 1st Planned Freeway System - 1955

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  • Started 7 years ago by Craig_Adams
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  1. Craig_Adams
    Radio historian

    Remember the old Glencullen Freeway, the Sellwood Freeway or the old Laurelhurst Freeway? If you're scratching your head, you need to read the historic article below from Portland's past...

    The Oregonian - Wednesday - June 29, 1955 - Front Page


    By Mervin Shoemaker - Political Writer, The Oregonian
    A comprehensive plan for handling the 150 percent motor traffic increase expected for the Portland Metropolitan area by 1975 was revealed Tuesday in a report to the State Highway Commission by Chief Engineer R.H. Baldock. The basic plan would use 14 expressways, 14 freeways and 24 major streets. Five new bridges would be built and two would be widened. The proposed 96 miles of freeway would cost $275,000,000. Proposed expressways -- 74 miles -- would cost $53,000.000.

    Program Involves 121 Miles
    The major street program, totaling 121 miles, would cost $43,000,000. according to Baldock's estimates. Bridge cost estimates were not given, and no finance plan was suggested. The Harbor Drive Freeway, and the Portland-Salem and Banfield Freeways, abuilding, can be considered part of the 20 year plan, but Baldock indicated no expectation of an early beginning for many of the more important improvements in the metropolitan traffic pattern. "This may not even be the final plan," he said. "But it is something to begin thinking about." The report said approximately $40,000,000. of the projected $371,000,000. total cost of the 20 year plan has been provided or will be available in the next two years.

    Five Bridges Listed
    The five new bridges and widening of two others, called for in the plan would provide 64 lanes for the 544,000 cars a day of trans-Willamette River traffic expected in 1975, compared to the present 33 lanes of traffic and 247,000 vehicles per day using the present nine river crossings in 1954. The proposed new bridges are designated as Fremont, Mt. Hood, Sellwood, Oswego and Oregon City-West Linn. The two bridges that would be widened are Ross Island and the projected new Morrison Bridge. One of the most drastic proposed changes would be effected by acquiring the Public Auditorium and using part of the site for right-of way for Sunset Freeway, which would pass through a tunnel under S.W. Vista Avenue just South of S.W. Jefferson Street, and cross the Williamette on the proposed Mt. Hood Bridge.

    Charts Accompany Report
    The report is accompanied by charts showing which Portland Streets are most congested at present, and how the traffic flow would be smoothed by combining radial and grid network systems. The radial system would be to carry traffic between the downtown area and points toward the periphery, and the grid network would provide routes for cross-town traffic. The name of the Banfield Expressway (Sullivan's Gulch) would be changed to Banfield Freeway under this plan, because of the definitions given for those two types of thoroughfare. A freeway, says the report has completely controlled access, no crossings at grade, no left turns, no signals and no parking. An expressway has partially controlled access, some intersections at grade, left turns provided for with left-turn refugee lanes, and no parking.

    The freeway system is considered the "backbone" of the 20 year program outlined in a study report of the Portland Metropolitan area's traffic needs which was turned over to the State Highway Commission Tuesday by Chief Engineer, R.H. Baldock. The expressway system is considered to complement the freeway system, while the major street system inter-ties the freeways and expressways with other arterial streets. The projected freeways are:

    Banfield Freeway (now called Banfield Expressway) -- Will be completed this Fall from Fairview on the East to N.E. 42nd Avenue, and on to the Willamette River by 1958. It travels through Sullivan's Gulch within the city.

    Harbor Drive Freeway (now called Harbor Drive Expressway) -- Simultaneous with conversion of S.W. Harbor Drive to a freeway would come construction of the Clay-Market and Columbia-Jefferson connections. Cross traffic at grade would be eliminated. There would be a two level viaduct section between the Morrison and Hawthorne Bridges adjacent to The Journal Building. There would be direct connecting ramps between Harbor Drive northbound and Burnside Bridge eastbound.

    Portland-Salem -- This construction would complete the northerly link. It would be connected with the Sellwood Freeway and Multnomah Expressway.

    Mt. Hood -- This freeway would start as a continuation of the Sunset Freeway (U.S. 26) with a new bridge across the Willamette. It would bisect the southeast portion of Portland. It would provide a connection between Harbor Drive Freeway and the proposed Laurelhurst Freeway.

    Sunset -- This would be a continuation of the Sunset Highway through a tunnel under S.W. Vista Avenue, just South of S.W. Jefferson Street, and a depressed freeway between the Clay-Market Street one-way couplet to the Harbor Drive Freeway and connecting to a proposed bridge across the Willamette River.

    Industrial -- The Industrial Freeway approximates the location of N.W. Front Avenue throughout most of its length. It will connect with the proposed Stadium Freeway.

    Delaware -- This freeway would connect with the U.S. 99 Freeway in Vancouver, and would cross the Columbia by the Interstate Bridge and a companion bridge yet to be built. It travels along part of N. Interstate Avenue and connects with Harbor Drive Freeway at N. Tillamook Street.

    Stadium Freeway -- Expected to be one of the more heavily traveled freeways. This thoroughfare would be elevated and would have approximately the location of S.W. 18th Avenue north of the Sunset Freeway. It would then cross the Willamette River on a two-level, eight-lane suspension bridge.

    Fremont -- This freeway, at about the location of N.E. Klickitat Street, would care for east-west traffic and would relieve Banfield Freeway when the latter becomes congested.

    Laurelhurst -- The Laurelhurst Freeway would traverse the central East side residential area of Portland on an approximate location of 39th Avenue, although the report states it could be anywhere between 25th and 45th Avenues.

    East Bank -- The East Bank Freeway would be along the approximate location of the East harbor line of the Willamette River, intercepting four of the existing bridges and one proposed bridge, and would go either under or over the Burnside Bridge. It would be mostly an elevated roadway.

    Cascade -- This freeway would extend from N.E. Marine Drive southward along 82nd Avenue to Gladstone. It would serve as a Portland bypass, and would give Oregon City and other southern points a direct route to Portland International Airport.

    Sellwood -- This freeway would connect southwest Portland with southeast Portland along a line at approximately the location of the present Sellwood Bridge. Coupled with the proposed Multnomah Expressway and the Johnson Creek Expressway, it would give a continuous crosstown route South of the central portion of the city.

    Glencullen -- This Freeway would connect rapidly growing area southwest of Portland with one-way street coupled connecting to the West side central business district and to the Ross Island Bridge and Harbor Drive Freeway. It would travel through a tunnel under Marquam Hill and Council Crest.

    Posted on May 15, 2012 - 06:16 AM #
  2. msndrspdx

    The Springwater Trail of today largely runs on the alignment proposed for the Mt. Hood Freeway way back when. MAX exists today because we didn't use the Mt. Hood Freeway funds to build a freeway. We built the eastside of what's now known as the Blue Line of the smartest things this community has ever done.

    Best, M. 8)

    Posted on May 15, 2012 - 07:12 AM #
  3. Deane Johnson

    I wonder why it is we had money to do those progressive things in that era, and we don't today?

    Posted on May 15, 2012 - 07:18 AM #
  4. kennewickman

    Those were ambitious 'wish list' proposals concieved in large part by Mr. Baldock himself. A section of I-5 is still technically named after him BTW .

    Of course some of those came to fruition ,some were modified over time, many of them just didnt get built at all for a few reasons most of which involved funding and or major demolishion of neighborhoods and disruption of Urban planning .

    Thank God, can you imagine Portland with all those Freeways as proposed !! The Sellwood Freeway Indeed and the Rose City Freeway and even the proposed Mt Hood !!! What a mess that woulda been !!

    Posted on May 15, 2012 - 07:54 AM #
  5. duxrule

    "I wonder why it is we had money to do those progressive things in that era, and we don't today?"

    Yeah, 'cuz all those freeways were done with private money from private companies, showing off the promise of the free market and capitalism marching on into the future, weren't they? Oh, wait... :cry:

    Posted on May 15, 2012 - 07:57 AM #
  6. edselehr

    There are fragments of many of these freeways (or sometimes, the right-of-ways purchased at the time) scattered around Portland. I'm thinking about the 82nd Ave to Airport Way connector, the section of McLoughlin Ave that runs through Westmoreland, and much of Powell from 52nd to I-205.

    Posted on May 15, 2012 - 08:32 AM #
  7. kennewickman

    I remember all the ax grinding over 1-205. The injunctions that started in the late 60s over that one..God...and then in the 70s..

    I worked for KYXI/KGON ...AM tranmitter where it is now..on SE Johnson Rd in Clackamas. We had some problems with the array and had to do what amounted to a skeleton proof over it all. I got to do much of the field strength readings out on the radials out to about 20 miles on some of them. All mandated by several consulting Engineers that McCoy hired.

    One of the radials went right through a neighborhood to be demolished by an extention of I-205 which by 76' 77' was only through from I-5 @ Aurora to about NE Halsey ( Mall 205 )..the rest of it yet to be built out to the Airport and then the New Jackson Bridge later on over the Columbia in the mid 80s...there was a long hold up on that section North of the Banfield..anyway I had a radial to measure in that area...funny how all the people were gone...Blocks and Blocks of houses built in the 30s and 40s mostly ...nice houses..brick homes a lot of them.. all emptied out...yards overgrown..burned up in the summer sun...stray dogs...and me out there taking field strength readings..driving around in my persimmon 75 OLDS Omega looking at the street signs and stepping off distances in feet along abandoned sidewalks from an old proof of performance document..

    All alone...reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode about some end of the world story or taken over by Aliens..whatever..A Rod Serling script..

    Posted on May 15, 2012 - 08:44 AM #
  8. paulwalker

    My guess is that in the mid-50's these were proposed as much smaller freeways than what see today. Probably two lanes in each direction.

    Seattle also had plans for many freeways that were never built, including one very near to where my family lived in NE Seattle. Seattle, being oddly shaped, was probably more anti-freeway than Portland at the end of the day.

    Los Angeles built most of the freeways that were proposed, and look what it became for better or worse.

    Posted on May 15, 2012 - 10:27 AM #
  9. Alfredo_T

    The transportation experts and city planners of the late 1940s and early 1950s generally believed that cities should be served by a grid of highways, with a maximum spacing of three miles. For very dense urban areas, they recommended spacings as tight as 1 1/2 miles (!). In that era, highway construction was viewed as a necessary investment to keep up with technological and economic progress. The city planners weren't thinking (as far as I know) that the freeways would eventually cause their cities to spread out. It is almost guaranteed that back then, nobody was thinking about air pollution, pedestrians, and cyclists.

    [ADD: If I am correctly understanding the definition of "expressway" used in the 1955 article, Barbur Blvd., Powell Blvd., the Tualatin Valley Highway, and Naito Parkway are all expressways.]

    Posted on May 15, 2012 - 01:04 PM #
  10. Craig_Adams
    Radio historian

    If any are interested in seeing the 1955 freeways & expressways map, it was on the front page of The Oregonian with the article, June 29, 1955. You just need your library card and pin number to see it:

    Posted on May 15, 2012 - 07:49 PM #