The historic opportunity for the City of Portland to plan for the Eastbank freeway removal is now! Since the mid-1960's when the I-5 freeway was built, it has dominated the east bank of the Willamette River, cut off nearly all access to the river from the surrounding neighborhoods, and has brought economic stagnation to a wide swath of potentially valuable land in the core of the city. While the current freeway location may have made sense when the river was heavily polluted and interest in living or recreating near the riverfront was minimal, it has become increasingly obvious that the freeway needs to be removed. The recent opening of the Eastbank Esplanade has brought thousands of people to the riverfront on the east side, despite the noise, pollution, and visual dominance of the freeway. Many visitors have clearly understood that the freeway's presence allows connections to the esplanade in only a few places, and the entire experience is significantly compromised. This reality, along with the City of Portland's River Renaissance study which calls for the freeway's removal, has brought added momentum to the freeway removal cause.
This advocacy group, Riverfront for People (RFP), has a long history of promoting uses for the riverfront other than moving traffic. In the late 1960's members of RFP were instrumental in leading the citizen movement to remove the superfluous Harbor Drive highway and replace it with Tom McCall Waterfront Park. In the early 1990's RFP re-formed to successfully fight ODOT's plan to further institutionalize the freeway's presence by building the $80 million Water Avenue ramps. Early in 2001 some of the original members of RFP, along with some fresh faces, organized for a third time to build off the momentum of River Renaissance and the new Esplanade and push for the removal of both the eastbank freeway and the Marquam Bridge. We have created a plan for the eastbank that envisions a new community for thousands of people to live and work, a short walk or bike ride away from downtown and connected to our regional transit system. While pressure to expand the Urban Growth Boundary continues, we propose to implode the boundary by removing the freeway and creating a dense urban neighborhood in its place, while retaining much of the light industrial uses that reside east of Grand Avenue. Our vision includes: