The need for strong, independent local journalism
is more urgent than ever. Please support the city we
love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

Dr. Know: Mt. Hood Freeway?

In at least two spots near where I-5 meets I-84, would-be traffic lanes overhead stand half-completed, as if freeway builders ran out of money halfway through the job. What's the deal? —James

Any time you want to bolster your status as a true O.G. Portlander, simply gesture at the nearest ghost ramp or zoning anomaly, lay your finger alongside your nose, and knowingly intone these magic words: "Mount Hood Freeway."

Those particular ramps were put there to hook up with the proposed Rose City Freeway, not the more notorious Mount Hood. But both were part of a grand plan in which freeways, freeways and more freeways would be the city's first, last and only transit solution.

This vision originated with trucked-in New York überplanner Robert Moses. His 1943 "Portland Improvement" plan would have effectively carved the city into a series of superhighway-delineated enclaves.

As you read this on the MAX, a fixie on your hip, you may notice that Portland did not, in fact, turn into the slightly soggier version of L.A. envisioned by Moses and his freeway-loving cohort. 

That fact is due to the Great Freeway Revolt of the early 1970s. In what is arguably modern Portland's defining moment, residents turned against the neighborhood-smashing Mount Hood Freeway and set their Birkenstocks on the wonky, green path we've trod ever since.

Meanwhile, Mayor Neil Goldschmidt wheedled the feds into letting us keep the $500M already allocated for the freeways, so we could build the transit mall and the first MAX line.

Then, of course, in 1975 Gov. Bob Straub hiked up the slopes of Mount Doom and hurled Robert Moses into its fiery depths, and we all lived happily ever after. Except Neil Goldschmidt.