Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

According to Ehuacom, Portland is the largest city, though not the capital, of the US state of Oregon. The city is located in the northwest of the state, at the confluence of the Willamette River and the Columbia River. The city has 641,000 inhabitants, with 2,512,000 inhabitants in the agglomeration (2021).


According to mcat-test-centers, Portland is located in northwestern Oregon, on the Willamette River, which flows into the Columbia River just north of the city. The Columbia River forms the border with Washington State. Portland is 100 kilometers inland from the Pacific Ocean. The Portland metropolitan area is largely located in the state of Oregon, but also extends into Washington state, surrounding the city of Vancouver.

The Portland region has a hilly to mountainous topography, interspersed with plains that are largely built-up. The Willamette River valley is sometimes quite narrow in Portland. Downtown Portland is located on the Willamette River, the rest of the city of Portland is mainly north and east of downtown, because to the west are the Tualatin Mountains, which separate the western suburbs of the city. 75 kilometers from the center is the 3,429 meter high volcano Mount Hood, which is permanently covered with snow and visible from much of the conurbation in clear weather. The Portland region has a humid maritime climate and the vegetation around the city consists largely of subtropical rainforests.

Population growth

The Portland metropolitan area covers three counties in Oregon (Multnomah, Washington & Clackamas) and one in Washington (Clark). The capital of Oregon is Salem and is located 70 kilometers south of Portland. The Portland-Salem corridor is relatively densely populated, although Salem is not part of the Portland metropolitan area.

Portland has benefited from migration from California since the 1990s. Although house prices in Portland are significantly above the US average, they are not as exorbitantly expensive as in California.

year Multnomah Washington clackamas Clark total grow
1950 472,000 61,000 87,000 85,000 705,000
1960 523,000 92,000 113,000 94,000 822,000 +117,000
1970 557,000 158,000 166,000 128,000 1.009.000 +187,000
1980 563,000 246,000 242,000 192,000 1,243,000 +234,000
1990 584,000 312,000 279,000 238,000 1,413,000 +170,000
2000 660,000 445,000 338,000 345,000 1,788,000 +375,000
2010 735,000 530,000 376,000 425,000 2,066,000 +278,000
2020 816,000 601,000 422,000 505,000 2,344,000 +278,000
2021 803,000 601,000 423,000 511,000 2,338,000 -6,000

Road network

Portland’s highway network.

Portland has a small network of freeways that is also not very large in capacity. Portland is therefore more prone to traffic congestion than other American cities of this size. Oregon’s two major highways, I-5 and I-84, converge at downtown Portland. I-205 bypasses the southern and eastern suburbs and is also partly located in Washington state. I-405 forms a western bypass of downtown Portland. I-5 and I-405 together form a complete beltway around Downtown Portland.

In addition to the four Interstate Highways, there are two other highways in Oregon that have been developed as freeways, namely US 26 as a connection from the center to the western suburbs and State Route 217 as a partial bypass through the western suburbs, between I-5 and US 26. On the Washington state side, State Route 14 forms an east-west connection on the north bank of the Columbia River, opening up the city of Vancouver. A little further north, State Route 500 forms an east-west connection through the suburbs.

Most highways have 2×2 to 2×3 lanes. Wider pieces consist mainly of weaves or splices for nodes. The traffic volumes are very high in relation to the available capacity. Also characteristic is the small number of bridge connections in the Portland region. There are several bridges over the Willamette River, but of the 11 bridges over the river, only 3 are not near the center. North and south of the center there are only two corridors where one can cross the river. East-west traffic is therefore impractical, especially in the suburbs. North-south traffic on the Columbia River has access to only two bridges, the Interstate Bridge from I-5 and the bridge from I-205. These are the only bridges over the Columbia River in the Portland area, alternative connections are more than 60 miles from the city.

Another weak point of Portland’s road network is the Tualatin Mountains that separate the city of Portland from the western suburbs. This is a nature reserve with only two secondary roads and one highway, the US 26. A lot of east-west traffic is therefore bundled on the US 26. South of Portland there is only one other connection across the Willamette River, two bridges at Oregon City. This means that I-205 is congested with regional traffic trying to cross the river.

The city of Portland promotes bicycle use and public transit use, which is somewhat higher than in many other American cities, but represents little on an international scale and in proportion to the total.

List of freeways

length first opening last opening max AADT 2016
55 km 1958 1966 165,000
24 km 1955 1955 179,000
60 km 1970 1983 172,000
7 km 1969 1973 128,000
29 km 196x 1970 160,000
24 km 198x 199x 87,000
13 km 197x 197x 117,000
10 km 199x 2013 72,000


The Marquam Interchange on the south side of Downtown Portland.

In the 1930s, the first plans were made for high-quality roads in Portland. Portland City Council asked New York road builder Robert Moses to develop a plan, presented in 1943, called the Portland Improvement Report. In the first half of the 1950s, bonds were first issued to pay for the construction of expressways. Two projects were prioritized, US 30 to the east and US 99 to the south.

The first expressway in Portland was the TH Banfield Expressway, a 20-mile highway from Portland to Troutdale and opened on October 1, 1955. At the same time, the Portland – Salem Expressway was under construction, with the first section of which opened on November 1, 1955 between Tigard and salem. At the time, this was largely outside the Portland metropolitan area. In 1956 the Interstate Highway program was launched, which gave Oregon federal money to build freeways. The TH Banfield Expressway became part of I-80N (later I-84) and the Portland – Salem Expressway became part of I-5. The first stretch of highway built under the Interstate Highway program was I-5 between Downtown Portland and Tigard, which opened in 1961. In 1963, the Minnesota Freeway, the portion of I-5 from Downtown Portland to the United States, opened Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River. The capstone of I-5 was the Marquam Bridge over the Willamette River, which opened in 1966.

Two more Interstate Highways in Portland were proposed in the 1960s, I-505 that replaced US 30 from Downtown Portland to the northwest, and the Mount Hood Freeway, a highway to become part of I-80N and should be a replacement for the TH Banfield Expressway. However, these plans did not go through due to the freeway revolts. However, I-405 was built along Downtown Portland and opened in two phases in 1969 and 1973. This was the last freeway to open near downtown Portland.

The first sections of I-205 opened as a Portland bypass in the early 1970s, but construction in Multnomah County met strong opposition from local residents and activist groups. By 1974, the southern half of I-205 was completed, but construction on the northern half was delayed by 5 years due to opposition not only from local residents and environmental groups, but also the Multnomah County government. Construction resumed in 1978 and the remainder of I-205 around Portland opened in 1982-1983. However, it would be Portland’s last highway, from the 1970s Portland was one of the most anti-car cities in the United States. From the 1980s onwards, the transport budget went almost entirely to public transport and bicycle paths. Portland developed as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the United States, but the lack of investment in the road network caused congestion to increase significantly. In 2018, 70% of Portland’s residential streets have had their speed limits reduced from 25 to 20 mph.

Smart Growth

Portland is internationally known for Smart Growth, which focuses on densification of the urban area, a strong center and a high share of public transport users. Despite Smart Growth, Portland is a low-density conurbation. The population density of the urban area is 1,362 inhabitants per km², half that of Los Angeles (2,702 inhabitants/km²). Only 0.7% of the residents of the Portland area live in an area with a density higher than 3,860 inh/km² – 10,000 inh/mi²). This proportion is higher in Dallas (0.8%), Houston (2.0%), Boston (20.3%), Los Angeles (38.2%) and New York City (49.1%). Despite decades of commitment to a strong downtown, only 10% of the Portland area’s employment is located in Downtown, no different from many other US cities of its size. Since the 1980s, 5 light rails have been built in Portland. Despite this, the share of public transport for commuting has since fallen, from over 8% in 1980 to 6% in 2010. In fact, 30 years of Smart Growth policies have had little effect and Portland is much more prone to congestion than other cities of its size. Portland had the sixth highest Travel Time Index in 2016 of the United States, in 1982 this was the 39th highest TTI (see below). The effects of Smart Growth are especially evident in the fact that Portland is much more bike-friendly than many other US cities. Portland is not very different from other American cities in other areas, such as public transport use and housing type, except that house prices are higher and traffic jams more intense than might be expected based on the size of the urban area. Portland has allocated 50% of its transportation budget to public transportation through 2035, despite public transportation accounting for only 5% of all commuter traffic.


Portland has more congestion than other US cities of this size. Of the 32 conurbations with between 1 and 3 million inhabitants, Portland has the fifth most congestion. Portland ‘s Travel Time Index is the second highest among this category of metropolises and the 4th highest among all U.S. metropolises and is higher than metropolises like Houston, Atlanta or Chicago. This is because the road network has hardly been adapted to the growing population of the urban area for decades. Traffic jams are mainly on and in front of the bottlenecks, which are the 2×2 sections in the highway network, this mainly applies to the I-205 and the I-405. It can also be busy on the various bridges. The relatively well-developed public transport removes only a marginal part of the traffic pressure. I-5 can also be busy due to the high volume of freight traffic from Mexico and California to Seattle and Canada.

Portland, Oregon

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