Fun with Highways: Portland

My trip to Portland for BPOW included becoming acquainted with its streets and highways (and mostly not getting lost). The city is largely defined by the Willamette River, which bisects the city in eastern and western halves, and a series of bridges over the river connecting the two sides:

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OR_99EI-84The above photo is looking north at the Burnside Bridge, which carries one of the city’s main thoroughfares. The vantage point is from the center of the Morrison Bridge, which combines traffic entering and exiting I-5 with city streets, walkways and bike paths. It seems to part of the theme in Portland that all these different modes come together and coexist along single routes. Looking towards the east side, the bridge connects to I-5 and I-84, as well as state highway 99E (Martin Luther King Avenue) and Water Avenue.

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I-5 runs along the east bank of the river. But it also runs with bike and walking paths and a greenway. The highway, park, water and industrial zone behind them all co-exist.

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I like the way Portland has chosen to co-exist with its older industrial infrastructure and highways as it plans green spaces and alternative transportation options. It is in sharp contrast to San Francisco, which can’t seem to tear down its highways and raze its gritty industrial areas fast enough. There is a beauty and attraction in preserving them while making the city for livable and environmentally friendly. The area around Water Avenue in the “Industrial Southeast” section of the city particularly retains this character. I had briefly seen it during my 2007 trip with the band that would later become Reconnaissance Fly, and for the BPOW trip I made sure to set aside time to explore. Much of the neighborhood is below the bridges and viaducts, but in between it opens up into spaces with larger warehouses.

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It can be quite colorful if you know where to look.

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Heading north at ground level, we follow the viaduct until we get to a rather nasty looking interchange. This is the northern terminus of I-405, which loops around downtown on the west side.

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There are also several city streets and rail involved here in ways I can’t quite figure out. It also oddly frames the rose skyscraper that dominates downtown.

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From here, we head north on 99E to the northeast section of the city. The industrial character gives way to a neighborhood of mixed residential houses and small stores. It here that BPOW took place at Cymaspace. You can read the first part of my report covering the workshops here. The second half, which will cover the evening concerts, will be published soon. In the meantime, we at CatSynth recommend enjoying a beer, of which there was no shortage in any neighborhood of the city.

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4 Responses to “Fun with Highways: Portland”

  1. Kitty Says:

    Oh good; another road trip. :)

    I like the b/w pictures. They look ‘old’, like the ’40s. The pictures in colour make a nice contrast. The cartoon is funny. Leave the best pic. for last – beer.

  2. Tillie and Georgia Says:

    This is something I hope continues to happen in Halifax.
    Developers want to raze everything and build ugly skyscrapers.
    (buildings that look like rectangles with holes)
    People want the facades kept and building to complement the old city that Halifax is.
    So far, that seems to be happening.
    I am not against development, I just want the buildings to have some character :)
    Enjoyed this post.

  3. Beth F Says:

    I haven’t been to Portland in years. I like how you always find the more unusual (and evocative) looks at a city. I’ll join you in that beer. :)

  4. Snowcatcher Says:

    I have driven on the main highway through Portland one time, about 20 or 25 years ago, and didn’t have time to explore as you have. I agree with Beth; you always find an interesting aspect of everyplace you visit. I like how they’ve made room for green space and bike paths. Both my husband and my brother have lived there, so it was very interesting to see Portland through your eyes.