PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — If Pioneer Courthouse Square is Portland’s Living Room, Tom McCall Waterfront Park is the front porch. And if you drive downtown you’ve noticed the stairs to that front porch are begin totally renovated.
Naito Parkway, one of Portland’s man connections to the Willamette River, is undergoing a $16 million transformation.
“South of the Hawthorne (Bridge) we’re rebuilding the whole street, curb to curb,” said Dylan Rivera with the Portland Bureau of Transportation.
When it’s completed, one northbound lane will be gone, replaced by a permanent bike and pedestrian path separated from traffic. The entire street north to I-405 will be repaved. The on-ramp to the Hawthorne Bridge will be extended with a traffic signal added and improved bridge access.
The project also modernizes the underground infrastructure beneath Naito Parkway.
At the moment the construction is a real pain for commuters. But there’s the promise of improving the Waterfront Park experience and safety, especially during summer festivals.
The finished project will make permanent the Better Naito experiment started in 2015. Designed by graduate urban planning students at Portland State University, it dedicates more space to bicyclists and walkers while de-emphasizing vehicle traffic.
“People loved it. The festival organizers loved it,” Rivera said.
This current Portland playground was home to waterfront commerce through the mid-1900s, with Front Avenue the main road.
In the 1940s, the land closest to the water became Harbor Drive Freeway. Gov. Tom McCall had Harbor Driver removed in 1974, which made room for Waterfront Park 4 years later.
Front Avenue was renamed Naito Parkway in 1996, shortly after Bill Naito died. Naito was a businessman and philanthropist who re-vitalized much of downtown and Old Town in the 1970s and 1980s.
Now, the city hopes to enhance Waterfront Park by transforming Portland’s main waterfront thoroughfare.
The project will completed in 2 steps. Naito Parkway south of the Hawthorne Bridge will be finished in the winter of 2021. North of the Hawthorne Bridge will be completed in spring 2022.