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Portland and Sustainability: Modern ideas push the needle (Part 2)

The four decades of Portland’s history that began in the late ’60s established a record of sustainability unparalleled in this city — or most other American cities.

The 1970s opened with the election to the Portland City Council of 28-year-old Neil Goldschmidt who, as mayor from 1972 to 1979, would lead the city through the creation of a downtown transit mall and the initiation of plans for a network of light-rail lines that, today, tie much of the region together.

Goldschmidt’s election was quickly followed, in 1971, with passage of a statewide Bottle Bill and Bicycle Bill. The former was the nation’s first effort to impose a deposit on soda and beer bottles, leading to a recycling industry that became a national model. The Bicycle Bill required that all state investments in transportation include provisions for bicycle and pedestrian amenities and improvements. The bill helped lay the foundation for what would become, two decades later, the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act.

In 1972, Portland adopted a Downtown Plan that remains, more than 40 years later, a set of concepts and guidelines that continues to influence Portland planners and citizens. The Plan sought to stem the flow of residents from the city by creating a livable downtown, reinvigorating transit ridership, establishing new design standards, preserving historic resources, and re-energizing the city’s commercial core, among other major goals.

Many of the goals have been achieved but, more significantly, they have continued to serve as benchmarks for continued work.
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