Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 2nd, 2012 at 1:59 pm
designs to the Bike Advisory Committee
(Photo © J. Maus)
ODOT, in partnership with PBOT, will unveil their plans for a I-5 freeway expansion project near the Rose Quarter at an open house in the Lloyd Center Mall tonight.
The plan, which is being done as part of the larger Central City 2035 and N/NE Quadrant plans, would add about 1,500 feet of additional lanes (in each direction) and a breakdown shoulder on I-5 between the I-84 interchange through the Rose Quarter. In addition, a host of other changes are being considered that will have a dramatic impact on surface streets and mobility in the area in general.
While just a planning exercise at this point, officials have estimated the cost of the "recommended base project" at $310 million with an additional $204 million for a slew of other "potential elements."
ODOT and PBOT reps presented details about their plans at a meeting of the City Bicycle Advisory Committee last month. Surprisingly, ODOT planner Todd Juhasz and PBOT planner Mauricio LeClerc said the main thrust of the expansion isn't to relieve congestion and add capacity. They say widening the freeway is being done to improve safety.
Here's how Juhasz explained it when the subject of added lanes came up at the BAC meeting:
"We're not trying to meet the capacity of the CRC [Columbia River Crossing project]... No matter what happens here, if CRC backs up this area will still be a mess no matter what we do... But what this project does is you've got so many on and offs in this area, by adding what we're calling auxiliary lanes, it allows more space for vehicles to get on into the flow of traffic or off with more space... reducing side swipe collisions and rear end collisions."
Juhasz says their modeling shows them that even with the additional lane, I-5 wouldn't get any increased capacity at all. "It's not increasing capacity at all... we're not getting any capacity benefit."
In terms of bicycle access, there are several interesting elements being considered.
Planners have come up with a "lid" concept that would put a cap over the existing freeway to "create a park-like atmosphere" on the streets above. The lid — estimated to cost about $110 million — would be placed over the freeway where it intersects with Broadway/Weidler/Williams The lid would allow for more breathing room to possibly improve the biking and walking access and help mitigate the negative livability impact of a major freeway...
Other ideas being considered are two new overcrossings over I-5. One would be at Vancouver and Hancock...
... and the other would be a biking/walking only overpass between Clackamas Ave (on the east) and Winning Way...
Another element of this project is a new multi-use path (MUP) that would run from NE Multnomah to Weidler right alongside I-5 on its eastern side...
And here's another look at the MUP in relation to the Clackamas Overcrossing (it's the orange dotted line that begins in the lower right):
ODOT and project stakeholders are also looking at removing the existing Vancouver bridge and directing all north-south traffic over to N. Flint Ave...
It's worth noting that the Hancock/Vancouver and Clackamas overcrossings, along with the multi-use path are currently listed as "potential elements" (read: extras) of the "recommended base project."
In addition to these elements, there's also the question of how the new freeway configuration (and on/off-ramp changes) will impact the large volume of bike traffic on nearby local streets as well as existing property owners.
Rich and Betsy Reese, who own the Paramount Apartments on the corner of N Flint and Broadway, penned a letter to the projects Stakeholder Advisory Committee on January 19th. The opening paragraph sums up the feelings of many activists I've spoken with about this project:
"While we question the basic premise of the inevitability of freeway expansion, and in principle are more interested in traffic engineering changes that would enhance our neighborhood through better bike, pedestrian and public transportation connections, we understand the importance of participating in this public process at the point of the current discussion."
This is big and complicated planning process that is trying to accomplish many goals. We'll have more coverage as things evolve. To learn more, come to the open house tonight from 4:30 to 6:30 at Lloyd Center Mall (west end, near Nordstrom) or visit the N/NE Quadrant project website.