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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Fun with Highways: I-587 in Kingston, New York (and Deep Listening)

Today we look at the city of Kingston, New York. Kingston is about 90 miles north of New York City on the west bank of the Hudson River. It was the first state capital of New York in 1777. For those of us in the world of electronic and experimental music, the city is the current home of renowned composer and musical innovator Pauline Oliveros as well as the Deep Listening Institute which she founded.

Kingston is also the location of one of the most obscure and oddest Interstate highways, I-587.

I-587-in-Kingston

NY-28I-587I-587, known as Colonel Chandler Drive, is co-signed with NY 28. It is a full freeway from it’s start at a traffic circle near the New York State Thruway (I-87) to its eastern terminus at an intersection with NY 32 (Albany Avenue) in downtown Kingston. Other than its termini, it has no exits. It also never meets its parent route, I-87, though the traffic circle at the western end does connect to Exit 19 of the Thruway.

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[By Mitchazenia (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0;], via Wikimedia Commons]

I-587 is signed along its route and at either end, but there is no mention of it on signs for Exit 19 on the Thruway. Thus, travelers on I-87 would never even know its there unless they took the exit and encountered the signs at the traffic circle.

By coincidence, I will participating in a performance of Pauline Oliveros’ The Heart Chant with the Cardow Choir at this year’s Garden of Memory event in Oakland. You can read past reviews of this unique yearly event and here. As for The Heart Chant itself:

This participatory Deep Listening meditation is a gesture of sonic healing for all beings and circumstances that need healing. It was created in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. “Ah” is a vocal sound associated with the heart shakra.

Anyone at the Chapel of the Chimes tonight is welcome to participate in singing this piece. There will also be numerous other performances by noted Bay Area musicians, and I hope to see as many of them as I can. You can follow along with me on Twitter @catsynth with hashtag #gardenofmemory.

Fun with Highways: Tulsa

Today we have fun with the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Downtown Tulsa is about one mile square, bordered by two highways, I-244 to the west and north, and I-444 to the south and east, together known as the Inner Dispersal Loop.

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Oklahoma_State_Highway_51US_64US_75I-444Despite being one of the coolest extant Interstate numbers, I-444 is unsigned. Instead, it carries US 75 designation for its entire length, as well as US 64 and OK 51 for part of its length. It’s curious that they chose not to sign it. According to kurumi.com, “a mapping supervisor from Oklahoma DOT spoke to the Division Engineer in Tulsa to get a more official answer. To avoid confusing motorists by adding a 444 number to an area with I-44 and I-244, the DOT decided to use the existing US 75 designation.” Honestly, that seems like a weak reason. We have I-80 plus seven different x80 interstates here in the Bay Area and manage not to get too confused by it.

So why Tulsa today? The city was awarded the Parking Madness “Golden Crater” by Streetsblog. Much of the south side of the downtown is covered by parking lots.”

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Not pretty, and not a particularly good use of valuable downtown space in the 21st century. And certainly the comments in the article open the city and its residence to a bit of ridicule. Apparently Tulsans are aware of this and the city council placed a moratorium on new parking lot construction. Moreover, Streetsblog describes a proposal by urban-planning major and native Tulsan to revitalize the downtown for walkability and pedestrian-friendly retail.

I did notice that outside of the downtown and Inner Dispersal Loop is the Philbrook Museum. The museum is on a 1920s estate designed in the style of an Italian Renaissance villa.

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[By Taken by Kralizec!, cropped by CPacker (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons]

While much of the collection is traditional art, they do have a growing modern and contemporary collection. This piece by Josiah McElheny, for example, makes an interesting contrast to the architecture of the estate. Would definitely be worth a visit.

Fun with Highways: The Seaford–Oyster Bay Expressway

Today for no particular reason we visit NY 135, the Seaford–Oyster Bay Expressway. It runs north-south through suburban Nassau County on Long Island. What makes it interesting is that it seems rather incomplete. NY 135 was intended to continue south to Jones Beach, but this part of the project was never completed. One can see the right of way extending south from Merrick Road (once the main east-west thoroughfare on the south side of Long Island) to the Wantaugh Parkway.

As it stands now, the expressway ends at a stub just after crossing Merrick Road.


[By DanTD (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0; or GFDL;], via Wikimedia Commons]

It is literally a dead end.


[By DanTD (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0;], via Wikimedia Commons]

You can see some more photos at this site. It seems like this would be an interesting spot for an art photography project. More of a concept piece with portraits.

NY 135 also ends at stub on its north end, just after crossing NY 25 in Syosset.

Indeed, the expressway never makes it all the way north to Oyster Bay, as implied by the name. But it was once proposed to extend even beyond that, crossing the Long Island Sound on a six mile bridge to Rye and connecting to I-287, the Cross Westchester Expressway (not far from where I grew up). This was one of Robert Moses’ more ambitious ideas and came far after his original projects that transformed many parts of New York including Long Island. I am currently reading The Power Broker: Robert Moses and Fall of New York, and in the middle of the chapters discussing the building of the parks and parkways on Long Island, including Jones Beach and the Wantaugh Parkway. One of the revelations was what a remote place Long Island was at the beginning of the 20th century despite being next to New York City. But in some ways it still seems rather remote.

I-710 and the Los Angeles River

After the intensity and non-stop stimulus of NAMM, I try to reserve the final Sunday for solitude and exploration of the greater Los Angeles Area. My most recent post-NAMM exploration included a trip north on I-710.

Officially the “Long Beach Freeway”, the highway runs alongside the Los Angeles River for much of its length. The Los Angeles River is a naturally flowing river, but it has been encased in a concrete channel. It’s a rather dystopian vision, but very much characteristic of 20th century LA. It has served as a setting for numerous movies – think the scene in Terminator 2 where the cars crash in a giant concrete ditch and the shapeshifting guy walks away. Of course, I had to photograph this monument myself as well. I joined I-710 at its interchange with Highway 91. The river immediately comes into view to the right, concrete channel and all. However, along this section there has been a lot of work to provide green space on the banks, with bike and walking paths connecting a series of parks. I left the freeway at the Imperial Highway exit for a closer look.


[The mighty Los Angeles River.]

This location is actually the confluence of two rivers. The San Gabriel River, also enclosed in a concrete channel for much of its length, flows into the larger Los Angeles River – the merging of the two concrete channels is unique.


[The San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers.]

I suppose I choose to see the beauty in scenes like these where others refuse to or can’t. But on another level, it is not entirely a choice. I am inexorably drawn to such things. Even as are attitudes towards development change from 20th century models, I’d like to see artifacts like this concrete river preserved.

North of the Imperial Highway, I-710 crosses the Los Angeles River to the east bank.


[I-710 crossing the Los Angeles River.]

The freeway begins to diverge from the river, heading due north towards Pasadena and controversial “dead end”. You can read more about the efforts to complete (or not complete) the highway at the California Highways website. However, I chose to leave the highway and follow the river instead.

A stretch of Bandini Boulevard grazes the river, affording views of a section that is unequivocally industrial. No parks or bike paths here. But even here I can find visual beauty in the bleakness of the scene.

The river is of course in no way devoid of life. Tenacious vegetation can be found along the channel, and there are plenty of birds who take advantage of the shallow water.

I continued north near to the river into the city of Los Angeles. The industrial character remained for a while, and reminded me a bit of the southeastern section of San Francisco that I often frequent, but on a grander scale. I didn’t stop here, but perhaps I should have. Towards downtown, the river becomes incorporated into the greater city, with classic art-deco bridges spanning the channel. I crossed it one last time on the First Street Bridge:


[By Downtowngal (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

It was early enough to still visit a couple of L.A.’s art museums, but I am glad I was able to spend time first with this piece of the city’s history, and a work of art in its own right.

Fun with Highways: California 247 and 18

After a few cold weeks in the city, I am looking back fondly at my trip to the desert this past summer. Today we look at the final leg of that trip, leaving Joshua Tree on Highway 247. I had been curious about this highway which heads north from Yucca Valley at a junction with Highway 62 out into the desert hills. There is actually quite a bit of residential development near the start of highway, with a great many dusty side streets with a diverse collection of homes. I acquired one of my sculptures at the home of an artist there several years ago. But on this occasion, I kept going north. One of first reassurance markers was, appropriately enough, next to a joshua tree.

The narrow two-lane highway wound its way uphill between a rocky ledge to the west and a desert valley to the east, with occasional rocky outcroppings. A few of them had graffiti on them. Perhaps I should have taken a photo, but I feel differently about graffiti on natural objects than I do on walls. Eventually, the road turned from north to east-west and entered a wide, flat valley, with the classic “road in the middle of nowhere” appearance.

The day was pleasantly hot, probably in the low 90s Fahrenheit (low 30s Celsius), a far cry from the triple digit temperatures at the start of this trip. There was a moderate breeze at times, but not too much. So standing on the side of the road here was an opportunity to experience silence punctuated by the occasional passing vehicle. It is rare that I have the opportunity to hear moments with so little sound, but so much other sensual information in the texture and temperature of the air and the sparseness of the visual space.

Highway 247 then enters the town of Lucerne Valley on the edge of the Mojave desert. It does not have much in common with Lucerne in Switzerland. The lakes here are dry lake beds, but like the more famous Swiss town it is surrounded by mountain ranges. Here, 247 turns north towards Barstow, so I switched onto Highway 18 heading east out of town. This odd highway winds around the mountains and valleys of San Bernardino county through a variety of geographies. The section that I traveled started with crumbly red-brown rock formations up against the sparse commercial development of the town. After an empty section, the road entered the town of Apple Valley where the landscape turned all of a sudden into suburban development and the highway became a multilane expressway known as the “Happy Trails Highway”. The sharp contrast was a little jarring, but not unexpected given the history of development in the deserts north and east of Los Angeles. But this was stark industrial development as I had seen in New Topographics a couple of years earlier, it was just dull suburban sprawl. Upon entering Victorville, Highway 18 becomes a regular city street along with Business Loop 15.

From here, I was able pick up I-15 and ultimately wind my way north along more familiar highways back to San Francisco.

Fun with Highways: I-990

Sometimes I just need a virtual escape based purely on numerical criteria. Such is the case with I-990, the highest-numbered Interstate highway in the U.S. It is a relatively short spur highway northeast of Buffalo, New York, and carries the name Lockport Expressway, suggesting that it was intended to connect from I-290 north of Buffalo to the town of Lockport. We did visit Lockport in our New York Primary Highways article earlier this year. However, as it currently exists, I-990 just ends at a simple intersection with a local surface highway, NY 263.


[Click to enlarge]

As can be seen in the above image, it looks like there is a piece of unused roadway representing where they highway would have continued past its current terminus.

This video follows I-990 along its entire 6.43-mile length north from I-290 to its terminus. I recommend turning off the sound, as the local radio station in the background gets tiresome.

Fun with Highways: South Riverdale

Today we look at a long walk from a long time ago. It was probably 1979, and in the summer, a time when I was often with my grandparents in the Bronx. I had already acquired the lifelong fascination with streets and roads that I retain to this day, and my great aunt (my grandmother’s sister) planned a long walk for us in a neighborhood that alternatively could be called “South Riverdale” or Spuyten Duyvil. It on the western edge of the Bronx along the Hudson River and just north of the northern tip of Manhattan.


[Click image to enlarge]

This walk is quite a vivid memory. It is odd to realize that I can retrace most of it on a map. I know that we started out from what was then the intersection of West 230th Street and Riverdale Avenue, heading south up the hill to Johnson Avenue. The hillside was steep and wooded (as it is today), but then enough that you could see the flat city blocks towards Broadway to the east. We eventually turned right onto Kappock Street, which curved its way further up the hill amidst more buildings.

From there, we turned north onto the service road for the Henry Hudson Parkway (NY 9A), which we followed for a distance. Though this mostly provided a view of the parkway itself, one could also look past it towards the Hudson River. Ultimately, we turned away from the parkway onto West 235th Street, crossing Johnson Avenue again in the “downtown” section of Riverdale. The exact route we took to get there is a bit fuzzy, but I attempt my best guess in the map above.

We stopped for a rest and refreshment (probably juice or milk as I hated soda), before continuing on West 235th towards Riverdale Avenue. It is on the side of steep hill with ledges separating lanes, so we walked along the higher section and descended the hill back to West 231st.

In November of 2002, I wandered back along West 230th Street out of curiosity to see how things had or had not changed. An old library building I remembered was still there, as were most of the larger commercial buildings. But the area around the intersection at the end of 230th was completely reconfigured, with wide green spaces separating different directions. The nearby high school campus had gotten a lot bigger. One small street from the start of the original walk, Ewen Street, appeared to have been completely removed.

It would like to re-create the original walk on a subsequent trip to New York, along with photos. It might even happen this year.

Fun with Highways: I-380 and I-280

I-380 is a short connector between I-280 and US-101 just north of San Francisco International Airport. The bus ride on I-380 to I-280 and the Daly City BART station was one of my first experiences in California (at that time BART did not yet extend to the airport). In the years since then, I have been through this interchange too many times to count. Here is what it looks like from above:

As one can see, this actually a larger and more complicated interchanged that it should be. I turns out I-380 was going to extend westward over the mountain ridge and to Highway 1 in the town of Pacifica (along the ocean), but this extension was never built, and at this point probably never will be. It would have crossed the San Andreas fault on unstable ground, and the area that would have been the right of way now has several residential developments. But the extra pieces of the interchange remain. The roadway that would have been I-380 continuing underneath is often used by Caltrans to store equipment, while other parts like the unused bridges are pretty much abandoned.

User jasonbentley on flickr has taken a series of photos on unfinished I-380/I-280 interchange.


[Photo by jasonbentley on flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)]

The freeway bed comes to a sudden end (all traffic is diverted to the ramps before this point). Beyond here, the right of way is crisscrossed with narrow gravel roadways.


[Photo by jasonbentley on flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)]

This unused bridge goes over the connecting ramp from southbound I-280 to eastbound I-380. Most people traveling on the roadway below have no idea this bridge is not in use.


[Photo by jasonbentley on flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)]

Do you have examples of unfinished or abandoned highways in your community? If so, please let us know.