14 November 2005

[or_roads] Oregon State Highway 1? Why Not?

During my lifetime, I've lived near a great deal of Oregon State Highways. When you live in eastern Marion County, Silverton-Mollalla-Mount Angel-Stayton and the like, State Highways are like the Force (insert lame joke here). They do bind the world together, and since one seems rather distant from an Interstate and even moreso from a US highway (none of those run through Marion or Polk counties), they define existence to a degree (I was born on a bluff overlooking State Highway 213).

One thing that might happen to the native Oregonian and map lover (myself, to be precise) is that one notices the subtle differences in usage and attitudes in the common arena. For instance I noticed, long ago, that surrounding states either called thier signed highways "State Route" (like SR 14 in Washington-I don't hear "Washington Hwy 14" often) or affixed the state name ("Califonia 1"). I also noticed a certain cachet about certain route numbers that migrated into the names of businesses along the route. When I was small, a lot of business along the Coast Highway called themselves "Hwy 101 [this or that]"; an old tavern on Portland Road in Salem just north of the Hazelgreen Rd-Chemawa Rd junction called itself "Flight 99" (even though it was adjacent to the old bed of Lake Labish-no airport in sight); the famous drive-in in Newberg still calls itself the "99w".

I also noticed that there is no signed Oregon State Highway 1.

That was not always the case. The early Oregon highway system not only had a State Highway 1 but also a State Highway 2. Highway 1 was roughly congruent to today's Pacific Highway (99, 99E, 99w) and Highway 2 was, at least in part, the highway west from Portland to Seaside, today's Sunset Highway.

In Oregon, highway numbers have a strange double life. There are two systems of highway numbers in Oregon; the numbers on the signs (what the average Joe Motorist things of as a State Highway number and what ODOT calls a "Route" number) and a so-called "secret" highway number, though I prefer to think of it as an inventory number (kind of like the stock inventory numbers grocery stores use on things they sell). For instance, US 26 and I-84 are still designated Highway 2 in the state inventory. Likewise, signed State Highways 99, 99E, and 99W are inventoried as Highway 1, 1E and 1W respectively.

Latterly, the state is resigning some unsigned state routes to give them state highway signs agreeing with these inventory numbers. For instance, the highway cutoff from the south end of the Boone Bridge in Wilsonville has a new name: State Hwy 551. And not many know this, but the route described by North Marine Drive past the Expo Center and North Portland Road leading to the Fessenden Six Corners in north Portland is a State Hwy: the Swift Hwy (named for the old meat-packing concern), State Hwy 120. When that one will get a shield is anyone's guess.

Anway, my point (and I do have one) is that if we can designate and mark these routes, why not establish the ultimate state highway cachet address: Oregon State Hwy 1.

Highway 1's are cool. Look at US 1, California 1. People remember these routes. It' be very fine indeed to give directions to a place and be fortunate enough to say "I'm just off State Hwy 1".

The only problem I see is choosing which roads to designate. Oregon is a place with great variety. Also changing route numbers is a tricky proposition; people know the current route numbers very well indeed.

I do have a suggestion: Hwy 99E would make a marvelous Hwy 1. We'd still have Hwy 99 (shifted from 99W) which is a cachet designation in itself. South of Junction City it could duplex with Hwy 99 to Eugene, then dance around I-5 through southwestern Oregon. That's just my idea, anyway.

I think it's time we had an Oregon State Hwy 1.

(Credit where it's due: the illustration I've posted is of Highway 213 northbound leaving Silverton (as Oak Street), and was altered by one taken by Chris Elbert and posted at the very find highway sign site at calrog.com)


Meagan said...

Hmm. Interesting highway concepts. I drive in Portland a few times a year or so and am constantly confused!

I live in Southern Oregon. We also have our own regional ways of naming these major interstates:

THE Freeway (I-5) and
THE Highway (Hwy. 99)

No further designation necessary. :-)

love meagan

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Portland is indeed confusing for the newbie, but I think it's really just the freeways. But I'm such a heavy local now you can't get me lost.

Actually, if I can unhide my bushel-obscured light for a mo', I've been a map-crazed maniac my entire life. I knew Portland like a local before I even got here.

I will cop to being Willamette Valley-centric, but I was born in Silverton and grew up in Salem before becoming a Portlander, so this is my crib, yo. I'm so into this area that when I go south of Junction City, I'm endlessly fascinated by the appearence of the bare number "99" on a highway sign without an affixed E or W.

Maybe I need to get out more.

Anonymous said...

I cannot find anyone who remembers what happened to the Madison Towers
Condo complex. It was in Portland in the 1980s. I think the name was changed. What do you know about this buiding?

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Whilst I am a native Oregonian I've only been a Portland resident since the mid-1980s myself.

At this point I must regretfully add myself to the list of people you've talked to that haven't heard of them.

However, I love a good chase. If you give me some idea of where the Madison Towers Condos were (I am assuming somewhere Madison Street), I can try to find out what I can about them.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Hey, just came on this one.

Portland Tribune, Clyde Drexler as reported by Kerry Eggers at the link here. Here's ther relevant text:

I was getting adjusted to living in a new city, a new environment and a new climate. I found an apartment downtown in the Madison Towers. I wanted to be right in the heart of the action, close to Memorial Coliseum and to the Jewish Community Center, where we practiced.

I had an epiphany at this point. I think that the Madison "Towers" he mentioned (and the one you may be thinking of) is part of a development called the American Plaza Towers. It's along SW 1st Avenue between SW Lincoln Street and the I-405 overpass, and extends west to about where SW 3rd Avenue once was.

It consists of three condo towers; Lincoln Tower, Grant Tower, and Madison Tower. Most times when I hear other locals refer to it, they call there individual building "Towers", e.g., they say they live at "Madison Towers" rather than "Madison Tower".

They have a (incomplete) website: http://americanplazatowers.com/.

I think that's what you're thinking of.

Hope that answers your question.