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With letter to City Council, new coalition launches fight against I-5 Rose Quarter project

Posted by on August 30th, 2017 at 9:04 am

Screen grab from No More Freeways website.

A new coalition of Portland-area organizations and individuals have joined forces to oppose the Oregon Department of Transportation’s I-5/Broadway/Weidler Interchange project.

With support that includes the Audubon Society of Portland, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Community Cycling Center, Neighbors for Clean Air, the NAACP, and others, a group called No More Freeways launched a website and social media accounts today. Their target is a public hearing on the Central City Plan scheduled for Portland City Council on September 7th.

In advance of that hearing the group has sent a letter to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and the four city commissioners outlining their opposition to the I-5 project. The goal of their campaign is to get three specific projects stripped from Portland’s Transportation System Plan (which could then trigger Metro to remove them from the all-powerful Regional Transportation Plan) and to hasten the implementation of a congestion pricing plan. Here are the three projects (and their estimated cost) as they appear today in the TSP (PDF):

  • #20119: I-5/Broadway/Weidler Interchange, Phase 1 ($44.4 million) – Conduct planning, preliminary engineering and environmental work to improve safety and operations on I-5, connection between I-84 and I-5, and access to the Lloyd District and Rose Quarter.
  • #20120: I-5/Broadway/Weidler Interchange, Phase 2 ($40.5 million) – Acquire right-of-way to improve safety and operations on I-5, connection between I-84 and I-5, and access to the Lloyd District and Rose Quarter.
  • #20121: I-5/Broadway/Weidler Interchange, Phase 3 ($126.8 million) – Construct improvements to enhance safety and operations on I-5, connection between I-84 and I-5, and access to the Lloyd District and Rose Quarter.

And here are key excerpts from their letter (which you can read in its entirety here):

Advertise with BikePortland.

We write to ask you to remove the I-5 Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion project from the Central City Plan. We are Portland residents, local advocacy organizations, and civic leaders concerned that a half-billion dollar freeway expansion project will harm our air quality, damage our efforts to reduce carbon, and limit our ability to invest in underserved neighborhoods.

Freeway expansion won’t solve our region’s congestion problem. Study after study has shown that freeway expansion projects do not ultimately relieve congestion—instead, research resoundingly indicates that freeway expansion encourages more driving, longer trips and more suburban sprawl. This has proven true in cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, Boston, and Denver. We see no evidence as to why this freeway expansion will be any different, and the city’s own staff from the Bureau of Transportation have admitted in testimony that there will be little impact on recurring congestion.

Expanding I-5 at Rose Quarter won’t meaningfully improve traffic safety. Portland’s commitment to Vision Zero, passed with a unanimous Council vote in 2015, embarked us on a data-driven prioritization of resources to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries on our most dangerous streets. Yet this project is projected to result in a minimal reduction in collisions. It does not address the predominant source of Portland’s epidemic of traffic violence – our “High Crash Corridors,” where 51 percent of Portland’s traffic deaths and serious injuries occur…

It’s an unnecessary, expensive investment in outdated infrastructure. The projected cost of the expansion – $450 million – is nearly twice what last November’s Municipal Housing Bond raised, seven times the projected revenue of last year’s gas tax, and represents a cost of $700 for every Portland resident. A project with such a hefty price tag (and therefore, a hefty opportunity cost) should be providing significant, longstanding benefits to all the city’s residents with investments that will produce the intended results. As documented above, even city staffers working on the project acknowledge the impacts on traffic safety and peak congestion traffic are of dubious benefit. The jobs produced by the construction of this project are also temporary and low in number compared to other infrastructure investments, particularly infrastructure for biking and walking.

It’s detrimental to the health of kids and families.… Overwhelming scientific evidence suggests children growing up near freeways are more likely to develop cardiac disease, asthma and lung cancer. Widening I-5 will expose these children and their families to even more toxic vehicle emissions, particularly after the failure of efforts in the last Oregon Legislature to regulate toxic emissions from diesel engines…

It runs directly contrary to our adopted climate goals. Transportation emissions account for 40 percent of our total emissions, a fact outlined in the City of Portland’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2015. The Climate Action Plan calls for a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2040. If the City is serious about this commitment, then every transportation project built from today on needs to push the region towards a significant reduction in carbon emissions. And yet as with other freeway expansions across the country, this project encourages more driving and more carbon emissions, not less.

… The I-5 expansion project is 20th century solution that directly hinders the City’s goals to create a greener, healthier, more equitable place. We think we can do better.

… To use taxpayer dollars efficiently, we also ask that no decisions be made on expanding I-5 until after road pricing is implemented, giving us a good understanding of how much traffic can be reduced through significantly cheaper initiatives. In addition, any revenue raised from tolling should be reinvested to address equity concerns and explore congestion-free transit options to increase travelling capacity along the corridor and throughout the region.

Individual community members that have signed onto the letter include economist and publisher of City Observatory Joe Cortright, Portland Planning Commissioner Chris Smith, veteran freeway fighter Jim Howell, real estate developer Eli Spevak, independent reporter Michael Andersen, former Chair of the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee AJ Zelada, First Stop Portland Associate Director (and former candidate for Portland Mayor) Sarah Iannarone, and a host of local transportation reform activists. (Disclaimer: I have also signed onto the letter.)

Notably absent from the list of organizations that support this coalition is The Street Trust. We’ve asked them for comment and will update this post when we hear back. (See update below)

While this opposition effort echoes past freeway fights like the Mt. Hood Freeway in the 1970s, this one much more nuanced. The City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation fully supports the project due to the numerous local street updates that are promised to come along with it. And as you might have read in recent BikePortland comments, even some transportation reform advocates have mixed feelings. One commenter who goes by “Beeblebrox” wrote yesterday that, “It should be noted that the project does not actually ‘widen’ I-5. There would still be two lanes north of the I-405 on-ramp, and two lanes south of the I-84 off-ramp. What the project does is connect the I-405 on-ramp to the I-84 offramp without a merge required, and vice versa in the other direction. So yes, on the margin it will make it easier to drive through the current bottleneck. But overall, this is not a massive ‘freeway widening’… Instead, it’s more like it’s connecting I-405 to I-84 to prevent the need for so much weaving back and forth.”

This new coalition — which represents the most organized and diverse freeway opposition Portland has ever seen — doesn’t share that rosy outlook. Will it be enough to persuade three members of Portland City Council? We look forward to hosting a robust debate.

UPDATE, 12:00 pm: Here’s a statement about the project from The Street Trust’s Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky:

Our priority at The Street Trust, now that the Oregon Legislature has chosen to fund the project, is to make sure that the congestion pricing, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian bridge, cap over the highway, and surface street improvements are fully funded and implemented as part of the project.

Widening highways will not reduce congestion. We are pleased to see our community partners leading a public conversation about this issue. We agree with many of the concerns raised by opponents of the project and think the best approach is to hold our leaders accountable to deliver the project elements that provide the most benefit.

To truly address traffic, the Rose Quarter project must include congestion pricing to manage demand during the busiest times of day. This a strategy that we strongly support and will work towards.

The project plan includes a much needed cap over the highway, reconnects the surface streets in the area, builds a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge over I-5, and improves connections between the Lloyd District and Downtown Portland.

We would love to see this project successfully set a new precedent for how we address urban highways in Portland. We would like ODOT, the City of Portland, and regional leaders to pursue congestion pricing on all our busy highways. We would like to see more of our communities stitched back together by burying urban highways under a cap.

We know that widening highways will not reduce congestion. The ~1.5 new lane miles on I-5 through the Rose Quarter aren’t the most important part of this project. We would oppose it if it compromised the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. We are choosing to work with project planners and local leaders to ensure that the most important street safety improvements don’t get value-engineered out of the project and that we set a new standard of congestion pricing and capping urban freeways in Portland.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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71 Comments
  • Jed Taylor August 30, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Because cars sitting in traffic on I5 is better for the environment? You do enjoy good and service from other parts of the country right? This is more than just about riding your bike in Portland. Get a grip.

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    • soren August 30, 2017 at 9:26 am

      Since you apparently believe fewer cars sitting in traffic on I5 is a good thing I can only assume that you too are opposed to this freeway boondoggle!

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      • Mark S August 30, 2017 at 10:39 am

        I have a better idea. Why don’t we go back to the way it was before I-5 was built. All of the motor vehicle traffic will now be routed on Interstate Ave & MLK Ave & all of the side streets in the vicinity. Not just automobiles, RV’s & motorcycles, but all of those trucks that are now adding to the traffic snafu. Then convert I-5 to a bicycle only corridor. You can have a bridge pedal every day. Along with that, you can remove all bike lanes on streets that are affected by the traffic that no longer has a freeway to use.
        I am done reading this blog. I don’t need the increase in blood pressure from reading this nonsense.

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        • alankessler August 30, 2017 at 11:04 am

          Bye!

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        • bikeninja August 30, 2017 at 12:22 pm

          Moto-utopians* seem to selectively ignore the well proven research that once a certain number of highways are built in an Urban area, adding more or increasing the size of the existing ones does not improve traffic flow. Partially because of induced demand ,which has already been mentioned, and partially because of the complexity and interaction of the nodes where they meet. This will be millions spent with little or no increase in the rate of traffic flow.

          * Moto-utopians= Those who believe the inherent problems with the congestion, pollution and safety of automobiles can be solved with more and better roads, higher speeds, and added gizmos on cars.

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 30, 2017 at 3:23 pm

          If you want cycling to be relegated to the fringes, vilifying and drumming out dissenting voices is an excellent way to accomplish that.

          Some of you might not like what Mark, BK, and certain others have to say. But if the only response to the majority of the population’s biggest concerns amounts to, “You’re wrong. Go pound sand,” you won’t get enough support to do more than small scale stuff, no one will take good ideas you have seriously, and the status quo stays intact.

          John’s hook article is a great example of how things can be. He shares some thoughts, and even though commenters are all over the map in terms of how they feel about the issues involved, the discussion brought in numerous contributions from less familiar and regular readers alike contained much more real dialogue and much less echo chamber.

          I personally believe BP has improved in both content and tone over the past year and the spectrum of ideas that is tolerated is broader than it was. But there is still too much of a tendency to pile on those expressing certain types of ideas. The last thing BP needs is to become cycling’s answer to Breitbart.

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          • bikeninja August 30, 2017 at 3:54 pm

            The problem with these dissenting voices is that they are not addressing the issue as it is expressed in the last two posts. It is like a group pushing back against a government proposal to use leeches to cure tooth decay. Then the dissenters come and say, ” well I guess you want everyones teeth to rot out.” A true dissenting voice would argue that leeches do cure tooth decay ( that the I5 Rose Quarter Project will decrease congestion). Like using Leeches as medicine, widening freeways to reduce congestion is rapidly being disproven all over the world. Come one, come all dissenters with evidence that this is not true, don’t just argue congestion is bad.

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            • Kyle Banerjee August 30, 2017 at 5:06 pm

              That dynamic was certainly at play.

              But certain opinions here are commonly expressed that way here and the reception is completely different. That cyclists feel marginalized on the roads and/or in society does not make doing that to others when the shoe is on the other foot if for no other reason that the diversity of perspectives improves everyone’s understanding of the issues.

              So what to do? We all have to accept that people will get more excited than they should at times — that’s just what humans do. But when someone is starting to go off the rails, others need to help bring them back down and back to the real issues rather than amplify the situation.

              This project has multiple dimensions, cost and the impact on congestion being among them. I personally don’t see this as a widening issue — it’s not like I-5 will have more lanes outside these merges which are difficult to navigate and are a major source of accidents.

              Some people are trоlls that need to be ignored. But that should be a relatively uncommon situation and I don’t think that’s what we had going on.

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          • soren August 30, 2017 at 6:26 pm

            To be frank, I consider your point of view and that of most bike enthusiasts to be on the fringe.

            Some exaggerated examples of this:

            VC enthusiasts — Riding next to motor vehicles without proper and effective cycling skills??? OMG, you are going to die!!!

            Infrastructure enthusiasts — Riding next to motor vehicles outside of a protected bike facility??? OMG, you are going to die!!!

            IMO, people who propagandize about the danger, difficulty, coolness, or uniqueness of cycling for transportation suffer from bike-stockholm syndrome (e.g. their vision of cycling or how one ought to cycle is being defined by the actions and/or reactions of the majority). Cycling for transportation in Portland is normal, boring, and safe.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 30, 2017 at 9:37 am

      Hi Jed,

      Thank for commenting.

      You asked:

      Because cars sitting in traffic on I5 is better for the environment?

      Would more cars sitting on I-5 because of induced demand be better for the environment?

      You do enjoy good and service from other parts of the country right?

      Yes I do! There are many ways to improve freight efficiency that don’t make driving single-occupancy vehicles easier and more efficient. And FWIW I also try to support the local economy as much as possible and if I had my druthers I’d want our society to stop relying so much on out-of-state goods and services, but I digress.

      This is more than just about riding your bike in Portland.

      Yes it is! I agree. And when you read the letter and arguments against projects like this you’ll quickly find they are about people wanting to breathe clean air, make good investments, and so on.

      Get a grip.

      Thanks for the support. It’s hard these days. So much crazy stuff going on. Cheers.

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    • SD August 30, 2017 at 9:39 am

      reflex: /ˈriːˌflɛks/ an automatic and often inborn response to a stimulus that typically involves a nerve impulse passing inward from a receptor to the spinal cord and then passing outward from the spinal cord to an effector (such as a muscle or gland) without reaching the level of consciousness and often without passing to the brain. e.g. the knee-jerk reflex.

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    • CaptainKarma August 30, 2017 at 11:51 am

      Go By Train!

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  • Adam
    Adam August 30, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Wouldn’t a better plan be to demolish I-5 between the US-26 interchange and I-84, then re-sign I-205 as I-5? Motor traffic not stopping in Portland should go around the city, not through it. We’d probably have to congestion toll I-405 to discourage through traffic. Then we could use the funds generated from the tolls to cap I-405. This plan also has the benefit of opening up the east waterfront to development.

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    • Jason Ford August 30, 2017 at 10:16 am

      I’m pretty sure you mean I-405, not I-205. Great idea.

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      • Adam
        Adam August 30, 2017 at 10:35 am

        Nope, I meant I-205.

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        • Alex Reedin August 30, 2017 at 1:20 pm

          Correction: I-205 is “through the city” too. I think you meant “through the central city?”

          Those of us who live near I-205 don’t want our lungs polluted even worse than they already are. Toll both routes, or neither. The toll could be higher on what is now I-5/I-405 than on what is on I-205. But it has to be high enough on I-205 that traffic becomes less than or equal to what it would otherwise be. Many in East Portland will, rightfully, not support any plan that pushes more pollution into the low-income part of town.

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    • Chris I August 30, 2017 at 10:29 am

      1. Widen I-205 and I-405 so that both have 3 continuous through lanes.
      2. Remove the east bank freeway and all associated ramps between the existing I-84/I-5 interchange and the existing I-405/I-5 interchange at the west end of the Marquam bridge, including the Marquam bridge. Re-sign I-205 as I-5, and re-sign what remains of the old I-5 as I-405 (between Tualatin and north Vancouver).
      3. The land where the east bank freeway once stood would be redeveloped into a linear park along the water, with multi-use towers build along both sides of Water Ave. Water Ave. would have ramps connecting it to I-84 on the north end.
      4. Build a local-access bridge on the footprint of the old Marquam bridge, connecting Water Ave. to Harbor Drive on the west side.

      The proceeds from the sale of the now extremely valuable land underneath the east bank freeway would pay for the majority of the costs of this project. With the change in traffic patterns, the Rose Quarter widening of I-5 would no longer be needed. Ideally, the project to add a lane to I-405 through downtown would also incorporate several freeway lids, with parks constructed above.

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      • Adam
        Adam August 30, 2017 at 10:42 am

        Get rid of steps 1 and 4, and you’ve got a good plan. 🙂

        The point of this is to avoid highway widening. If we widen I-205 and I-405, we’re still expanding highways. I also don’t really see the point of building another bridge for cars. If the idea is to get through traffic to go around Portland, do we really need another local river connection? The Ross Island bridge is nearby for people who need to drive, and Tilikum is there for transit and cycling. I’d rather spend the money used for widening and bridge-building on extending light rail to Washington and improving cycling access in the area vacated by the elevated highway.

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        • Chris I August 30, 2017 at 12:26 pm

          It would be one lane in each direction for cars and transit, and would have MUPs on each side for cyclists and pedestrians. Cost would be comparable to The Tillicum (about $150 million). It would better connect the future dense neighborhoods on each side of the river. The Hawthorne doesn’t land until Grand, and the Ross Island flies well above and past both waterfronts. The bridge would be local access, so I revise my earlier comment, and would have it land on River Pkwy on the west bank, connecting just north of OMSI on the east bank. And it may not be needed for years. At some point, the area would be dense enough to justify it. It would be built to the latest seismic standards, and would be critical after a large earthquake, since most of the other bridges will be down.

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          • Adam
            Adam August 30, 2017 at 12:37 pm

            I just think that money would be better spent on a transit bridge over the Columbia.

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            • Chris I August 30, 2017 at 1:28 pm

              Agreed; but that is more of a political issue than a technical one.

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  • eawriste August 30, 2017 at 9:28 am

    I would happily supporting the I-5 Rose Quarter expansion if I-5 was removed from the Central East side and congestion pricing were implemented.

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    • Adam
      Adam August 30, 2017 at 9:37 am

      Agreed; that would be a true compromise. Throwing a bike lane in here and there to appease the opposition isn’t enough. People supporting highways expansion always say we need to compromise or that we’re “too militant about bikes” or that not everyone can ride a bike. Yet they somehow always seem to get the vast bulk of the deal, and drivers rarely have to compromise on anything. Drivers get all the direct routes while cyclists have to zig-zag and bus riders have to sit in traffic that they generated. Hardly seems fair.

      You want extra lanes on I-5? Fine. But you will have to give something up. Everything is about trade-offs, yet no one ever seems to ask drivers to compromise on anything.

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    • Kyle Banerjee August 30, 2017 at 11:05 am

      No way that could possibly have negative side effects such as thousands of motorists filtering through residential areas to avoid getting tolled.

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      • Adam
        Adam August 30, 2017 at 11:09 am

        Use the toll revenues to build diverters.

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 30, 2017 at 1:51 pm

          I’m certain there will be no pushback whatsoever to a plan that spreads fees pretty much everywhere except the place that produced the money.

          Based on how long it took to get a single diverter on Clinton Street — which was already widely accepted as a cycling street by motorists who weren’t affected that much anyway, it won’t take long to implement this highly practical plan.

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 30, 2017 at 2:04 pm

          On second thought, you may be onto something.

          Though your idea is too limited. You should probably go for a $5000 surcharge on all new car sales to expand transit and bike infrastructure….

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      • eawriste August 30, 2017 at 11:44 am

        I believe there are a modicum of bridges. Tolls work quite well on the East coast.

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 30, 2017 at 1:58 pm

          Though they tend not to use them in short urban segments where there are many alternatives. But I’m sure that detail is irrelevant…

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          • eawriste August 30, 2017 at 3:27 pm

            Exactly. The aim of tolls on bridges-and avoiding hiway expansion for that matter- is to limit long distance commutes from outside the city.

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            • Kyle Banerjee August 30, 2017 at 4:44 pm

              That’s not what this section is about though. Tolling major feeders such as the bridges from Washington for which there is no other realistic route is a different dynamic entirely.

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  • nmr August 30, 2017 at 9:44 am

    Adam
    Wouldn’t a better plan be to demolish I-5 between the US-26 interchange and I-84, then re-sign I-205 as I-5? Motor traffic not stopping in Portland should go around the city, not through it. We’d probably have to congestion toll I-405 to discourage through traffic. Then we could use the funds generated from the tolls to cap I-405. This plan also has the benefit of opening up the east waterfront to development.
    Recommended 3

    JFC this

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    • Stephen Keller August 30, 2017 at 11:13 am

      I’d be all for this if there were a decent bridge between the end of Rivergate and Hwy 30 at around Newberry. Otherwise, anything that increases congestion on I-5 will simply route more traffic through St. Johns and across the St. Johns Bridge. Cut-through and -around commute and freight traffic in St. Johns is already insane: pedestrian crossings at N St. Louis, Fessenden and Lombard are scary (even at the lights); the N. Central green way frequently suffers from drivers trying to bypass the lights at Ivanhoe & Lombard and at Lombard & St. Louis (even with the diverter and speed bumps along Central); and the backups on the access roads to the St. Johns Bridge are becoming the stuff of legend. I regularly see bridge traffic backed up on Lombard all the way over at Pier Park (nearly a mile away). I see Waze and Google recommending alternate routes on to narrow residential side streets, and I see people taking those routes.

      Maybe the St. Johns Bridge needs a toll, too.

      I know…(sigh), I live up here and suffer from NIMBYism like pretty much everyone, but St. Johns isn’t equipped to handle the current levels of freight and commuter that are moving through it. I’d hate to see changes that encourage more of it.

      Of course no such bridge between Rivergate and 30 exists. Adding one would just encourage more driving that would lead to more congestion in my neighborhood, so it’s no solution either. Maybe high-speed passenger rail between Vancouver and Hillsboro would help.

      Stph

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  • rick August 30, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Fight back ! Angered that highway 217 doesn’t have a parallel bike / walk path.

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  • Alex August 30, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Look into making lane sharing legal. This would reduce traffic, reduce emissions and encourage more people to ride motorcycles/scooters for commuting purposes. Motorcycles/scooters get way better MPG than cars as well. WIN WIN WIN for everyone! (I do not have a motorcycle or scooter, but would get one if this was passed)

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    • Al August 30, 2017 at 8:58 pm

      I believe the Oregon legislature passed a lane splitting bill but it was then put up as a measure where it failed at the ballot. The most common complaint from drivers was, and you can’t make this up, “It’s not fair that motorcycles get to go around cars.” Unbelievable.

      It was a narrow defeat however and there appears to be some momentum in this area again. For the record, the main advantages are that motorcycles can filter through traffic and that they avoid being rear ended, which is one of the most common modes of collision for motorcycles. Unless you’re being truly reckless, lane splitting is quite safe especially in rush hour traffic.

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      • soren August 31, 2017 at 1:32 pm

        “lane splitting is quite safe especially in rush hour traffic.”

        i know — i do it almost every work day on my bicycle commute home.

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  • emerson August 30, 2017 at 11:55 am

    I want to know why The Street Trust did not sign the letter.

    Jonathan — As I’ve said before, I love this blog. Thank you for your excellent reporting and diligent work.

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    • emerson August 30, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      Presumably I know, and I’m glad your reporting helps to hold organizations accountable and their feet to the fire.

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    • steelisreal August 30, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Does the Street Trust care about anything anymore, other than taking in more donor money and throwing parties for itself?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 30, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Here’s a statement about the project from The Street Trust’s Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky:

    Our priority at The Street Trust, now that the Oregon Legislature has chosen to fund the project, is to make sure that the congestion pricing, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian bridge, cap over the highway, and surface street improvements are fully funded and implemented as part of the project.

    Widening highways will not reduce congestion. We are pleased to see our community partners leading a public conversation about this issue. We agree with many of the concerns raised by opponents of the project and think the best approach is to hold our leaders accountable to deliver the project elements that provide the most benefit.

    To truly address traffic, the Rose Quarter project must include congestion pricing to manage demand during the busiest times of day. This a strategy that we strongly support and will work towards.

    The project plan includes a much needed cap over the highway, reconnects the surface streets in the area, builds a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge over I-5, and improves connections between the Lloyd District and Downtown Portland.

    We would love to see this project successfully set a new precedent for how we address urban highways in Portland. We would like ODOT, the City of Portland, and regional leaders to pursue congestion pricing on all our busy highways. We would like to see more of our communities stitched back together by burying urban highways under a cap.

    We know that widening highways will not reduce congestion. The ~1.5 new lane miles on I-5 through the Rose Quarter aren’t the most important part of this project. We would oppose it if it compromised the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. We are choosing to work with project planners and local leaders to ensure that the most important street safety improvements don’t get value-engineered out of the project and that we set a new standard of congestion pricing and capping urban freeways in Portland.

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    • steelisreal August 30, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      How brave of The Street Trust to parrot what others have said after the fact.

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    • Stephen Keller August 30, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      Sigh…, congestion-based pricing in only one place just pushes traffic to other places where there is no such pricing. For example, I personally know people who drive around the southbound Tacoma narrows bridge to avoid the toll, despite it being out of the way and therefore probably just as expensive. I never win those arguments.

      If we’re going to do congestion pricing, we’ve got to do it everywhere! Unless there is a level playing field, the neighborhoods will suffer.

      Hm… Maybe we could just build a ring-road and wall around the city and declare that there is no non-public motorized transport inside. I’m thinking giant parking garages in a ring 30 miles in diameter. You want in? You walk, bicycle, swim, take the train or bus, whatever…. Maybe we can get Trump to pay for it.

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      • Jim August 30, 2017 at 2:12 pm

        Congestion pricing within an entire urban area is entirely achievable (eg London). The technology exists, the system pays for itself. What is obviously lacking is the political will. We as a city choose not to do it.

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        • Adam
          Adam August 30, 2017 at 2:19 pm

          The vast majority of Portland is not urban, though. Portland is not even close to London in terms of density, and certainly not even having the right density to support many of the progressive ideas people come up with here.

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          • Stephen Keller August 30, 2017 at 3:03 pm

            Agreed, I think it would be really difficult to pull off politically and still effectively reign in cut-through traffic in the neighborhoods. What we’ll end up with, I suspect are a few strategic spots–choke points, if you will–hammered out in poorly managed negotiations that leave behind a ragged mess of unpleasant side-effects.

            One thought I had was assessing tolls at these locations:

            All I-5, 405, 84 and 205 on ramps (excluding freeway to freeway interchanges),
            1-5 Interstate Bridge,
            205 Glenn Jackson Bridge,
            St. Johns Bridge,
            Broadway Bridge,
            Steel Bridge,
            Burnside Bridge,
            Morrison Bridge,
            Hawthorne Bridge,
            Sellwood Bridge,
            On ramps to Fremont Bridge (except for 405 or I-5 access)
            On ramps to Marquam Bridge (except 405 or I-5 access)

            In this way, if one gets on the freeway, one is encouraged to stay there as long as possible. Hopping on and off or diverting around would be more expensive than toughing it out on the interstate system. It’s hard to predict if something like this would work and what sort of unexpected fallout might arise from it.

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        • John Lascurettes August 31, 2017 at 11:56 am

          The traffic actually has to get a whole lot worse, and the expansion projects a whole lot less feasible, to create the political will.

          Interestingly enough, I drove somewhere yesterday at commute hour when I usually bike or bus the route and it was dreadful. This was all surface street stuff. And the issue at hand was how many people were in cars. It’s not the capacity problem.

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    • Chris I August 30, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      I agree with their position 100% here. This project will improve the pedestrian environment, which is pretty abysmal currently. We need to unify our message and make sure that freeway cap doesn’t get “value engineered” out of the project.

      And in 10 years, when this stupid project is finally paid off, we can point out that congestion is even worse than it was in 2017. It will be a poster child for the folly of urban freeway expansion in the region.

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    • Michael Andersen August 30, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      I agree with everything stated here too, including the part where Gerik acknowledges that this is a freeway expnsion in the middle of a city.

      If this is the world’s most city-friendly freeway expansion, I could be persuaded that it’s a net win … but I still don’t see the problem with insisting that we put the anti-congestion charge in first and then check to see if the freeway expansion is even useful any more.

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      • Beeblebrox August 30, 2017 at 9:39 pm

        Because you lose the opportunity for capping the freeway and rebuilding aging and seismically vulnerable bridges, probably forever. There’s pretty much no chance that could be done as a local project. It needs big state money to do that, and they will quite reasonably insist on some kind of freeway improvement. The fact that we’re getting handed state money that otherwise would go to a true freeway widening project, and instead it’s going to a small operational improvement and a ton of surface improvements should be celebrated, not opposed. This really is a model for how urban freeway projects should be. Look up other freeway capping or burying projects around the country–they pretty much always happen as part of a “freeway improvement” project.

        Here’s a thought experiment for you: what if the state allocated $3 or $4 billion to bury I-5 through the Central Eastside and Lloyd District and tear down the Marquam Bridge, but only on the condition that the buried freeway would be 3 lanes in each direction instead of 2? Would you really say no? If your answer was “let’s just do congestion pricing and see if the project is still needed”, you would never actually get to bury the freeway and undo the scar across our city. Instead, you would keep I-5 right where it is, except traffic would be able to go faster, and arterial streets would be busier. You’ve just shifted auto demand, and left the freeway where it is, sitting on the surface where there could be jobs and housing.

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        • Evan September 1, 2017 at 7:59 am

          I like your thought experiment about burying I-5 and I-405. That’s tempting, but I might still oppose it — the capping & burying could be dramatically cheaper without widening. And the widening is working *directly* against our collective goals.

          And furthermore, in this context, I’ve seen nobody make the case that this change would be truly transformative for the surface environment. We’ll still have two traffic sewers on ground level (Broadway & Weidler) and they probably won’t have good protected bike lanes or bus lanes.

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        • Steve B. September 6, 2017 at 5:17 pm

          Do you have a source to support that the bridges are seismically vulnerable? Those bridges slated to be demolished (Broadway, Weidler, Williams, Vancouver, Flint) to widen the freeway here are not very old. Having participated in the public process, I understand the main justification for knocking these not-so-old bridges is to add the lanes to the freeway.

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      • wsbob September 7, 2017 at 6:39 pm

        Put the anti-congestion charge in for using the freeway. It would be a way to raise some money. People needing to drive the freeway past the RQ now, will still likely need to do so after congestion pricing…so how is congestion pricing for this part of town, realistically expected to be able to help manage congestion? Or is the congestion pricing to be applied not to the freeway past the RQ, but to the exits from the freeway to the RQ? Sorry if this question has already been asked and or answered by someone else here.

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  • Kittens August 30, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Portland would have to move MUCH more decisively in the direction of transit and bikes: signal priority, dedicated ROW and funding if we are to think most Portlanders in 2017 can imagine a future without more SOV capacity.

    It’s really a systemic failure of leadership to meaningfully build on the promise made in the late 70s that we can thank for the (inveitable passage of this particular project. A couple of MAX lines and an a few hawk signals are just not going to cut it.

    We were there in the late 70s and 80s with the advent of MAX and some latent American-democratic optimism before America slowly descended into the hell we all partially live in today 🙂

    They were planning for a largely car-free downtown in the 70s!

    Now we incentivize SOV trips with “car-sharing” offering free parking and allowing “ride-sharing” billion $ corporations to clog our streets day and night so Jeff can commute from his “loft” in the Pearl to the CEID without having to momentarily share space with a homeless person.

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    • emerson August 30, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      I have said the same as you. We have lost our vision and our optimism. The future is wide open for Portland to regain its leadership. I, like you and many others, are trying to help us get back to where we were.

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    • rick August 30, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      The Red Electric Trail bridge is delayed to the spring of 2019 per project manager.

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    • dan August 30, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      I’m not so sure that car-sharing is a net negative. These may be removing SOV trips into the core, right? And each car-sharing car could potentially remove multiple SOV trips. Or, if an apartment gets a few shared cars, doesn’t that mean that fewer people will feel compelled to own a personal car? So…isn’t that a positive?

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    • wsbob September 7, 2017 at 6:55 pm

      During rush hours, Portland’s SOV freeway capacity is basically at capacity. So is for example, north-south Hwy 217 in the Beaverton-Tigard area, and east-west Hwy 26 between Portland and Hillsboro. Our area is not like L.A., meaning to me, it’s doubtful that attempts will be made here to attempt to meet SOV motor vehicle commute hour freeway travel capacity, by doubling or tripling the number of freeway lanes in each direction.

      If there is a way that Portland, or metro, could somehow supply or substitute city or regional current freeway commute hour travel needs made with SOV’s, through the expansion of transit and bike infrastructure, please explain how you think that could reasonably be done.

      In our area, I don’t think people ever felt that light rail or bus service, or bike infrastructure, could substitute the need for all, or a major portion of the use of SOV travel using the freeways.

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  • Mike Sanders August 30, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    One problem: The Trump government would probably want to keep I-5 on the east bank because of their notion that keeping truck traffic running thru the RQ area is needed to maintain homeland security. Besides that, how would I-84 traffic connect to I-5? On city streets designed as ped/bike corridors? That wouldn’t work. Routing inbound I-84 traffic onto Lloyd Blvd. to make the connection wouldn’t work, either.

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    • Chris I August 30, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      In my proposal above, we would keep the ramps from I-84 to I-5 as-is. The freeway would be signed as I-84 through the Rose Quarter until it meets with I-405 at the Fremont Bridge. The existing I-84 to I-5 south ramp and all associated ramps around the Morrison Bridge would be removed. The existing I-5 to I-84 eastbound ramp would be converted into 2-way traffic and would meet an extended Water Ave. where it lands on the east bank.

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    • BradWagon August 30, 2017 at 1:37 pm

      First half: uh, what?

      Second Half: If you are referring to removing I5 on the east side I believe the general idea is that 84 would turn north and go through RQ and connect over the Fremont bridge.

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  • rick August 30, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Where is The Street Trust support for Washington County project? $40 membership won’t support this rejection of the $450,000,000 freeway project?

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  • Al August 30, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    What can congestion pricing do that a raise in gas tax can’t?

    The Street Trust continues to disappoint. First they bailed on the bike tax and now this.

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    • Evan September 1, 2017 at 7:52 am

      Congestion pricing signals to drivers that driving at peak hour is more expensive than driving off-peak.

      Gas tax doesn’t do that.

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      • Al September 1, 2017 at 6:52 pm

        Gas tax signals to drivers that driving is more expensive than other forms of transportation which is exactly what congestion pricing does to people who commute.

        I don’t think this is a problem that can be solved by one authority alone. It takes numerous authorities in concert to build out the infrastructure and it will take a similar consortium of authorities to solve this problem. Congestion pricing is one authority, attempting to do it all alone. For the moment, I’m against it as I see an alternative solution which also happens to address other problems with automobile transport. While gasoline demand is fairly inelastic, the money collected from additional gas tax revenues can be used to create alternatives which then ease congestion. Unfortunately, the trucking association has a very well organized lobby, which as we have seen this last legislative session, is quite effective.

        Most of Europe has a heavy tax on car purchase. It’s ludicrous in Scandinavia! It’s their way of trying to account for the massive negative externalities that automobiles cause. While the car dealership lobby is extremely strong here, it’s another option available to raise revenue for alternative transportation projects.

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  • Andrew Margeson August 31, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Congestion pricing is worthwhile and necessary, but there are crucial issues surrounding the fact that it will divert traffic onto alternate routes that aren’t priced. Even now, our neighborhood streets get swamped when I205 slows way down.

    I have deep concerns about how ODOT will implement congestion pricing. The appropriate price when there is no congestion is $0. Will ODOT just convert it to a money-making scheme?

    If congestion pricing is the stick, there is a need for carrots. Where we live, public transportation is so bad we have stopped using it. There are only buses, they run every 35 minutes or so and they are extremely unreliable. They are slow due to poor routing choices. To make matters worse, you take your life into your hands getting to the bus stop because ODOT won’t install crosswalks on 43.

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  • Evan September 1, 2017 at 7:50 am

    It’s taken me a couple days but here’s the real problem I have with the Street Trust’s position.

    They’re saying that now that the project is in law, they’re going to try to make it the best project it can be. This is not an unreasonable position in itself; I might have come to the same conclusion if I had woken up yesterday and looked at the facts on the ground.

    But that’s not how we got here. The Street Trust failed to oppose the widening project *before it was in law*! They worked against more progressive activists while the law was being drafted, and are now claiming by implication that they weren’t present for that process. “Uh-oh, I guess it’s law now, what can we do?” It drives me crazy!

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