This article was originally published on Mismanaging Perception.
Where Are the Slayers of the Mt. Hood Freeway Today?
In the 1960s in Portland, Oregon the proposed Mt Hood Freeway was a done deal. By 1972 the plan for the freeway had perished. In 1967 the city proposed making the Harbor Drive highway even wider. Several years later that highway was ripped from the earth and replaced with a public park. Shortly after, planners were preparing to construct the city’s largest elevated parking garage in the center of downtown. Today, Pioneer Courthouse square stands in its place, a cultural epicenter of civic engagement and the site of hundreds of acts of radical speech and civil disobedience.
The story of Portland’s transit history is inextricably linked to a history of radical social activism. That history is scarcely known today at a time when a new onslaught of disastrous transportation projects hang on the horizon, threatening the future livability of our region.
Where did these activists of the 60s and 70s go? Did they forget to teach future generations what they’d learned in their fight? Or did they try, only to fail to keep pace with the influx of young urbanites eager to enjoy the fruits of their labor, yet ignorant of how and why Portland had been transformed into a place worth caring about? Will efforts to halt freeway expansions via I-84 and the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) fail because few people are aware of their consequences? These are the questions that keep me up at night, I’m not kidding.