Friday, November 17, 2006

Vision for Removing I-5 from the East Bank of Portland

Over on BlueOregon, Ron Buel has posted a piece advocating for putting I-5 into a tunnel underneath the central East Side of Portland. Ron is one of the folks who helped get Harbor Drive turned into Waterfront Park, back in the day.

However, while the tunnel idea sounds fab... I think I'd have to side with the folks advocating for complete I-5 eradication on the eastside. I like the proposal to keep a portion of the Marquam as a sculpture, monument, perhaps outdoor park & market... and get rid of the rest of it.

As far as I can tell, I-405 through downtown could actuall be upgraded to three through lanes in each direction, plus auxiliary lanes for the exits, if a couple of on- and off-ramps are removed. The way I see it, this could basically be one large phased project:

1: Cap I-405, in the process removing some of the exits and upgrading it to three through lanes in each direction. (This might be a good opportunity to study making that third lane a High Occupancy Toll lane, or some other limited-access lane, though I'm not necessarily saying that these are good options -- it would just be a window of opportunity.)
2: Once I-405 has been sufficiently upgraded, remove I-5 from the East Bank. Demolish the part of the Marquam that is not slated to remain, remove the freeway from the east bank as well as all of the exits, and re-route I-84 such that two lanes in each direction flow towards the Fremont Bridge and I-5 North. Re-brand I-405 as I-5.
3: In the room created by the removal of I-5 from the East Bank, dig a big ditch and create a new underground R-O-W for through rail traffic, extending from the Steel Bridge to somewhere around Division Street.
4: Perform HazMat cleanup of the entire area
5: One lane in each direction from I-84 would flow towards a new East Bank transportation system -- either a new one-way couplet or a new parkway (ala Naito Parkway). Personally, I'd prefer to see a one-way couplet with a block of development in the middle, as I think that traffic would flow better on a couplet, and it would be better for development. The couplet/parkway would extend from the Convention Center area down to OMSI.
6. The couplet/parkway could potentially link up with a new Caruthers Crossing Bridge, which would probably have a lane (two max) of auto traffic in each direction, light rail/streetcar, and wide bike/ped paths on each side.
7. Fill in the remaining developable land with... extensions of the eastside street grid, new development, parks, daylighted creeks, bicycle/pedestrian paths, etc. Perhaps a few skinny towers, but mainly buildings in keeping with the existing character of the neighborhood, i.e. 3-12 stories or so.
8. Potentially protect the existing Eastside Industrial District through a historic/industrial/entrepreneur protection zone, or set up business incubators in some of the buildings, or explore other ways to keep the existing neighborhood funky while also allowing some new development in the land vacated by the freeway & railway.


Anonymous said...

I like your idea. In order to fund the widening and capping of 405 I would suggest that we allow proposals wherein a developer could pay for the improvements in return for gaining ownership of the land created by the new cap. While some would complain that this would constitute some form of giveaway, I think it would be a very efficient way to fund this project.

Anonymous said...

Rather than using regulation to keep the industrial nature of the East side, I would vote to leave the train there while removing just I5. This would have a much smaller footprint, but, when coupled with the noise from the bridge on-ramps, would be enough to keep the industrial character of the neighborhood.