Dead Freeways

By Erica C. Barnett October 1, 2009

Former PubliCola writer Sarah Mirk has a fascinating history of Portland's unfinished freeways in the Portland Mercury—freeways that were initially considered vital, but which were ultimately never completed. The states of Oregon and Washington, Mirk notes,
are currently embarking on the largest single transportation project in the region's history. If the states' transportation departments get their way, the current six-lane I-5 bridge to Vancouver will become a 12-lane, $4.2 billion bridge called the Columbia River Crossing (CRC). Unlike the freeway projects of old, light rail and a better bike path are included in the CRC design. But there are many parallels. Modern environmental groups like Coalition for a Livable Future say the 12-lane bridge will increase traffic and promote sprawl. Some of the old-time activists who organized the anti-Harbor Drive picnics are these days attending rallies against the CRC.

Like proponents of the Columbia River Crossing, advocates for the $4.2 billion deep bore tunnel on the waterfront are describing that project as necessary to preserve jobs and keep Seattle's economy moving. Mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan, for example, issued a press release two days ago describing the tunnel as a "no brainer" for "the working men and women of Seattle whose livelihood depends on the viaduct replacement." So it's worth noting the many examples in which proposed megaprojects have not been built, and cities have turned out better for it.
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