Ride Report: Dead Freeways Ride, 11 June 2006


start: Food Front Co-Op, NW Thurman at 23rd
Endpoint: SE 50th Av at Franklin
Riders: 18 at the maximum, about 7 all the way to the end.
Time: about 3 hours total

I wish I was more prepared for this ride, but that seems to be the case for most of the rides I’ve done lately. There’s always more research that can be done and a zine can be made. One of these days, I’ll get around to it.

The ride departed from Food Front around 11:30 and headed west on Thurman to the foot of Macleay (Forest Park) and then looped back to 23rd via Wardway and Vaughn. This was the site of what would have been I-505, or the St. Helens Freeway, a highway that would have taken all the land between Vaughn and Thurman from the foot of the Fremont Bridge to the foot of the West Hills.

At 23rd and Thurman we made a quick detour onto the on-ramp for the Fremont Bridge, and then promptly got off to get down to NW 19th. We rolled along the secret “pedestrian” path that ODOT had built under the Fremont Bridge viaducts and then cut through the Pearl to get over to Front Ave.

Eventually we found our way to NW 9th by the railroad tracks. And here is where I made a bad judgement call. Rather than take NW Front (and yes, I will call it Front) to the Waterfront Park path, we paralleled the tracks and then ended up in the yard at Union Station. To get to the end we passed through a gauntlet, fence one side, stopped freight train the other, with about a four foot wide gap and big pieces of gravel. I think I scared off a couple people with that one (but maybe I had to do it to fulfill that sense of “Adventure” one lunkhead anonymously commented to this blog some months back).

And now we were following Front Ave with Waterfront Park to our left. This was the site of Harbor Drive, a primitive freeway used by US 99-W from around 1940 to 1974, when it was torn down for the park. It’s hard to imagine this area now with a freeway. Where would we put summer festivals, like the Rose Festival’s Midway (which was happening at this time)? Gresham?

We paused for a moment at the ghost ramp that leads up from Front and then got on the Hawthorne Bridge. On the east side we stopped underneath the Hawthorne Blvd Viaduct at SE Water to see the evidence of Portland’s last interurban railway (pre-MAX), which was closed down in early 1958, ironically the same weekend that the Banfield Freeway (I-84) fully opened. Then a stop by the Marquam Bridge to see the ghost ramp that would have led onto the fabled Mount Hood Freeway.

I’m not going into much detail about the Mt. Hood Fwy on this blog, but you can read plenty about it on this Wikipedia page. We started our tour of the proposed freeway at SE Division and MLK. We lost a good deal of riders here, and the remainder rode up SE Clinton to see the route, stopping briefly at Piccolo and Richmond Parks, two parks built on land acquired for the freeway.

The ride ended at SE 50th and Franklin, the site of an ” neighborhood information center” opened for the express purpose of selling the Mt. Hood (now a Planned Parenthood office, ironically). Jeff, Jill and I retired to the Hedge House for lemony tea and veggie burgers, and then I took a nap in Laurelhurst Park. What a day!

Thanks to Carye Bye for photos. More can be seen here.

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