Every Friday in Stumptown Stumper, the Portland Tribune offers a trivia question and answer that helps you boost your Rose City IQ.
Q: You've probably noticed it while driving north on Interstate 5, under the Marquam Bridge: There's a graffiti-covered stub of a highway ramp hanging high overhead, in the opposite direction. How did this 'highway to nowhere' come to exist?
A: OK, the graffiti part probably threw you off, but that's our mistake - the freeway stub under the Marquam has no such vandalism - yet. The ramp, visible from the Eastbank Esplanade, was part of the ill-fated Mount Hood Freeway, which never was built because of neighborhood revolt. We were thinking of a similar stub on the Fremont Bridge.
According to Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Mason, these partially built ramps are abundant in Portland, and exist because they're relatively inexpensive to build during a highway's construction, compared with the cost of going back to the highway after it is built to add a connection to another highway or for local access.
All of these stubs remain ,though plans to build the connections later were shelved due to funding, political, land-use, community opposition or other reasons.
Mason says there are three stubs at the interchange of Interstates 405 and 5 built to connect what once was known as the Rose City Freeway, a connection between Interstates 405 and 205.
There are two stubs at the I-84/I-5 interchange, one built for local access, the other built as part of the system connecting the old Harbor Freeway to the Steel Bridge to I-84.
There are two stubs on the I-405 ramps to U.S. Highway 30, built for local access. And there is one stub on Grand Avenue, once part of a plan to connect Oregon Highway 99E to I-5.
This stub won't be around long; ODOT has plans to demolish it in coming years as part of the $64 million Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Grand Avenue viaduct replacement project.
Just like most large concrete facades around town, these stubs often are magnets for graffiti, much to the bewilderment of transportation officials.
'Those people are so resourceful,' Mason says. How do they reach it? 'I don't know. They might hang off with ropes. That's my guess. There's no way that you could really come from the ground up unless there's a ladder, but I'm just speculating.'
There you go, graffiti artists. Time to share your secrets.
Next week's Stumper: How did Burnside Street get its name?