On Thursday afternoon Portland City Council members got an earful of opposition to the most expensive project in their 20-year Central City 2035 plan: The controversial proposal to invest $450 million to add new lanes and shoulders on I-5 between I-84 and I-405 through the Rose Quarter.
Council hosted the public hearing as part of their effort to adopt an updated Central City plan, which they hope to vote on in March. In recent weeks, No More Freeway Expansions — a grassroots coalition of neighborhood groups, nonprofit organizations and Portlanders who oppose the I-5 widening project — seized on the hearing as an opportunity to encourage council to remove it from the plan.
“We must implement the one and only proven method for combating traffic congestion — value pricing — sooner rather than later.”
— Mayor Ted Wheeler
Mayor Ted Wheeler and his colleagues on council would have to buck significant political momentum for the project if they chose to go along with the coalition. The Oregon Legislature agreed to set-aside $30 million per year in gas tax revenue for the project starting in 2022 and the Oregon Department of Transportation has been champing at the bit to expand I-5 through the Rose Quarter for decades. They feel its current cross-section causes too many crashes and too much congestion. (For a great overview of the project read this week’s Portland Mercury article.)
In opening remarks before public testimony began at the hearing today, Mayor Wheeler said he supports Commisisoner Dan Saltzman’s position on the project (Saltzman was not present). Saltzman released a statement this week supporting the project; but with one key condition: that “value pricing” (a.k.a. congestion pricing or tolling) be done “in advance… to ensure maximum congestion relief and overall environmental benefits.”
“I wholeheartedly support [Saltzman’s expectations of the project],” Wheeler said today, “We must implement the one and only proven method for combating traffic congestion — value pricing — sooner rather than later.”
Wheeler added that we can expect Saltzman’s office to bring a resolution specific to this project to city council in the coming weeks.
When it came time to hear public testimony on the project, those who oppose it clearly won the day. Dozens of people spoke against it and many others didn’t get a chance to testify due to time contraints.
two four people testified in support of the project: One was an invited member of the Portland Planning Commision and two were ODOT staffers.
Noted transportation reform advocate and Vice-Chair of the Portland Planning Commission Chris Smith testified today as a leader of the No More Freeways coalition. “We believe the project is ill-advised,” he said. Smith told council members that he has a list of 24 Comprehensive Plan policies that it directly contradicts. Smith said it doesn’t address safety (the crashes ODOT points to are primarily non-injury fender-benders), goes against greenhouse gas and emission reduction policies, and it invests in what the city’s adopted plans say is the lowest priority in our entire system: encouraging single-occupancy vehicle use.
And with climate change on everyone’s mind, Smith ended with this: “Making a half-billion dollar investment that sends climate in the wrong direction is not supportable.”
Echoing that theme, parking reform advocate Tony Jordan opened his testimony with this blunt assessment:
“Our planet is convulsing. We’re drowning and burning at the same time. Our federal government is in denial. Our children are looking to us to take responsible action. Against this backdrop, we’re considering a 20-year plan that expands highways and builds more parking garagaes. This is not a responsible action.”
Audubon Society of Portland Conservation Director Bob Sallinger said, “I strongly enourage you to go beyond just the congestion pricing and eliminate this project altogether.”
The two ODOT staffers who testified in support of the project mostly stuck to their scripts. ODOT Region 1 Government Liaison Andrew Plambeck described the freeway elements of the project as, “Adding auxiliary lanes and shoulders,” and said the project will result in, “Important safety and operational benefits without adding any additional through lanes.” He also touted the surface street elements of the plan like the “Innovative lid” that would be built over I-5, “Creating a new open space and better east-west surface connections.” Plambeck also mentioned the new carfree bridge that would be built across I-5 at Clackamas Street that would be, “A key connection for the city’s Green Loop concept.”
When Commissioner Amanda Fritz asked Plambeck if the surface street elements could still get state funding without doing the freeway widening, Plambeck said no. “That’s not what the legislature has provided funding for.”
“So we can’t just use the money for something else?” Fritz asked. “No, I don’t believe so,” Plambeck said.
“This was purely a highway expansion project from the start… assurances of basic surface improvements along with the freeway widening was simply an effort to sugarcoat the highway project for skeptical Portlanders.”
— Steve Bozzone
Supporting Plambeck was another ODOT employee. Public Policy and Commmunity Affairs Manager Shelli Romero talked up the agency’s “environmental and public process” which will include, “a robust understanding, research and engagement strategy of the historically wronged African-American community and other communities of color.”
“We understand the historic inequity concerns and will engage all communities in this project,” Romero promised.
Surprisingly, she also attempted to impugn congestion pricing in general with a strange and unfounded jab. “Several people have brought up the issue of congestion pricing,” she said, “but there has been very little mention about how equity considerations, when you look at congestion pricing on this section of I-5, would be taken into consideration.” This is an odd statement from the staffer of an agency that has a mandate from the legislature to create and implement a congestion pricing program.
And Romero’s promises about a “robust” public process that will respect neighboring communities was called into question by the testimony of Portlander Steve Bozzone, who was a member of ODOT’s advisory committee when this project was initially vetted back in 2012.
Bozzone (who also happens to be BikePortland’s web guy) told council he was a member of the I-5 Rose Quarter project’s stakeholder advisory committee. “I participated in the process every step of the way, and the process was abysmal,” he said. “The local community surrounding the project was not well represented and was mostly ignored.”
Here’s more from Bozzone’s stinging criticisms of ODOT’s public process:
“Albina’s black comminity, who bore the brunt of the negative effects of I-5 bulldozing through their neighborhoods were curiously not at the table. Freight companies, industry and developers dominated every meeting. When I tried to build relationships with ODOT staffers at design charettes and ask for their business cards, they laughed at me.
This was purely a highway expansion project from the start. ODOT knew what they were doing. They kicked things off by proposing huge flying-diamond interchanges and giant off-ramps. Really scary stuff! PBOT was in the room, but ODOT was in the driver’s seat. Alternate proposals that didn’t include freeway widening were quickly swept into ODOT’s recycle bin and deemed out-of-scope.
The effect is that we are supposed to be relieved ODOT didn’t bulldoze half of the Lloyd District. Including assurances of basic surface improvements along with the freeway widening was simply an effort to sugarcoat the highway project for skeptical Portlanders. It is a myth we can’t improve the surface street conditions without the highway portions [of the project]. We do not have to accept freeway expansions in the urban core as the ticket to surface improvements. There are no guarantees the surface improvements will be funded or delivered. Try tolling first.”
While this project is a far cry from the Mt. Hood Freeway once proposed in the 1970s, it has brought some of the veterans of that fight back to the fore. One of them is Ron Buel (who was also instrumental in organizing to remove Harbor Drive and replace it with Waterfront Park).
Buel testified Thursday and had a clear message for Mayor Wheeler and the rest of council: “Get some guts. Have some backbone.”
The coalition that defeated the Mt. Hood Freeway got the federal funding transferred to light rail instead. “I was there, I was a part of that,” Buel shared. “And the city council and Mayor Goldschmidt didn’t have a low-level bureaucrat from ODOT telling them what they could or couldn’t do with that money. They went to work and fought for it and we got it done and we didn’t built that freeway.”
Whether council muster similar strength this time around remains to be seen.
You can submit written testimony on the Central City 2035 plan until 5:00 pm on September 15th. Council is scheduled for a vote on the transportation elements of the plan on October 18th. Also note that ODOT has launched a new website for the project and announced an open house for Tuesday September 12th in northeast Portland.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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I was nearly applauding while reading the quotes from Tony Jordan, Steve Bozzone, and Ron Buel. Huge thanks to everyone that showed up. And as always, thanks BikePortland for all of your work.
“…Dozens of people spoke against it and many others didn’t get a chance to testify due to time contraints.
Only two people testified in support of the project and they were both ODOT staffers. …” bikeportland
Question: Does a single one of those dozens of people that spoke in opposition to this project, have to daily drive this section of I-5 past the Rose Quarter? If they do, maybe they don’t mind being stuck in the backed up and stop and go traffic there during commute hours.
That is, opposition to the part of the project limited to just the addition of lanes and shoulders, and not the improvements to surface streets associated with use of the freeway on this short section of I-5, or the inclusion in the project of a car-free bridge.
Some more questions: Of anybody having spoken in favor of ‘congestion pricing’, as a strategy for addressing the problem of traffic congestion in this part of town, explained in any detail at all, specifically what form congestion pricing would take in this area?
Specifically…what roads or parts of them in the area would be subject to congestion pricing as recommended for example, but Mayor Wheeler, Comm. Saltzman, or anyone else that considers congestion pricing to be a workable means of helping to manage traffic congestion in this area?
450 million is a lot of dough. Of course, all of that money definitely is not going towards the design and construction of what some opponents of this project refer to as ‘freeway widening’. If that figure seems to high, what about cutting the car free bridge from the project? Or cutting improvements to the neighboring surface streets?
Freeway widening would be a fair description of say, adding a couple additional lanes to the freeway between Tigard or further south and Portland and beyond to the north. That’s not what this project is. In fact, it’s widening just a very short section of I-5 past the RQ, The
RQ itself may be contributing the some of the congestion on this section of I-5, in part calling for the changes this project stands to bring about.
ODOT is in the process of widening I-5 southbound from N Tigard to I-205 and I-205 from Oregon City to I-5.
Yes. And where are the protests and opposition to those projects? Instead this group is targeting what is probably the best freeway project in the nation.
Portland is the most liberal city in the region, and the one with the most use of non-car modes of transportation. It’s the part of the region where any groundswell of opposition to the wasteful, destructive, future-generations-betraying freeway expansion projects must start. That is the political reality.
Plus, if the organizers of this group went to Clackamas and Washington County local governments to oppose the I-205 freeway widening project, they’d be ineffective – with no local network, labeled carpetbaggers, just irrelevant to the political realities of the project. But, if this group kills the Portland project, local Clackamas county folks might join up with the group to work against the I-205 project.
Political reality? In this type of situation, political reality is most likely very closely connected with functional reality of the interstate freeway through town.
The functional reality of I-5 north-south through Portland past a key segment of the city’s east side in the area of the Rose Quarter, site of two sports arenas, a major convention center, a major regional shopping mall, expansion of hotel lodging facilities, business, residential housing, is that congestion on this section of the interstate freeway, likely is affected increasingly by activity associated with the city and the RQ in particular.
It seems this project seeks to reduce that part of congestion on I-5 arising at least, from travel to and from the RQ, and very likely between the towns neighborhoods to either side of the river as well.
Many people in Portland use this section of I-5 in conjunction with I-405 to the west, to get to parts of town on either side of the Willamette River…rather than by the comparatively more laborious process of driving through Downtown on the west side of the Willamette.
Their use of this section of I-5 through town must be contributing significantly to the congestion on that freeway. Not that they shouldn’t use it, and drive through Downtown instead. Downtown streets and livability there in general, likely would not do well with the addition of traffic represented by Portland people primarily using these two interstate highways for local rather than interstate and city to city travel.
Portland has an obligation to work with everyone else in the state to try have its use of the freeway for activity within the city, not affect anymore than necessary, the functionality of I-5 as the highway and freeway it needs to be for interstate and city to city travel. What in the form of travel options, are opponents of this project offering to through travelers using I-5 on a daily basis, particularly during commute hours of the day? Do they have something to offer that can work?
“Portland has an obligation to work with everyone else in the state to try have its use of the freeway for activity within the city, not affect anymore than necessary, the functionality of I-5 as the highway and freeway it needs to be for interstate and city to city travel.”
Translation: People living in Portland should allow as many other people as possible to travel through the middle of their space. In addition, despite the harmful effects of this (i.e. safety, health, etc.), people in Portland should increase the number of people passing through this space. Redesigning the space for the people living in Portland, and offering data based alternatives to this behavior, should not be a consideration.
I totally agree that local voices should be loudest when it comes to roadway design and operation (which is how I read this comment). While many agree with me, they tend to stop agreeing when locals do not support bike lanes, want additional vehicle capacity, or otherwise don’t know what’s good for them.
It would be interesting to know the ultimate impact on congestion after the last widening of I-5 north was completed in 2008 or 2009.
you ask ‘does anyone that testified against it HAVE to drive that section of I-5 every day?’ that’s the thing is no one really HAS to do that. there are other options. They could live closer to work, they could cycle, if Vancouver and State of Washington hadn’t nixed the MAX like 5 times, they could ride the MAX. I have little sympathy for people that ‘have’ to sit in their single occupancy vehicles, they don’t ‘have’ to they just do it because it’s cheap and easy and they won’t change unless they’re motivated to do so (congestion pricing and tolls)
Let’s take a survey. How many people just want to get rid of I-5 completely?
How about we just limit its access to freight and military transport. Okay, include ambulance, police and firefighting. I know there would be howls, but I wonder what such a freeway would look like (as well as what life around it would be like).
Just say no !
I do like the notion of capping the freeway in this area, though. I’d like to bury all of our urban freeways such that we could build parks, walkways and cyclepaths above them; maybe even housing and retail space if the covers could be designed to take that sort of load safely. Caps such as this one that help create neighborhood connections are one of the few ways we have to overcome the blight of a freeway cutting through the city.
Right? Imagine if we capped the 405 with a linear park. What a dream!
I wouldn’t want to spend any amount of time directly above a freeway, no matter how attractive they try to make it.
Two words: air pollution.
Two more words: Earth. Quake.
Do some research on the “Big Dig” in Boston before thinking about doing it here.
I’m not sure covering a mile of I-5 is in the same league as Boston’s Big Dig, but I hear you. These sorts of projects are fraught with the potential for fraud, scope-creep and cost-overruns. Our little $450 million project is probably going to cost more like $2 billion before the thing is done (and I have little doubt that it’ll be undertaken). The few good bits that are supposed to come out of it will likely be axed along the way by tired bureaucrats who, in the end, simply want to “get-er-done.” I’m sorry if that sounds excessively pessimistic, but the State (ODOT in particular) doesn’t seem to be listening very well these days.
Correction lids are only planned for about a few hundred feet of the way. I should have looked more closely at the plan.
Steve Bozzone won “Best in Show” yesterday. Loud cheers even in the overpacked (“the Fire Marshal will throw you out if they see this”) adjacent rooms for Joe Cortright, Chris Smith, and Ron Buel, but Steve’s long involvement and judgment hit hard.
Chris Smith was excellent.
Also Ron Buel and the others.
So if there is congestion pricing on I5 and and I84, what will that do to traffic on arterial roads in NE Portland?
@m I know that one should not feed the trolls but I’ll clarify m’s remarks to safeguard against others misunderstanding the current Oregon legislation that is already in place via the passed HB-2017-10 transportation funding bill. The bill requires that I-5 and I-205 have congestion pricing in place from where they split in Tualatin and up until the Columbia River (Oregon state’s boundary) through the Portland metro area. This does not include I-405, I-84, or state highways such as OR-26 and OR-30. m, your information is incorrect. I-84 is not being considered for congestion pricing. Most likely the places will be at the bridges just before they leave Oregon state. This will not impact NE Portland top roads as the bridges are the only ways across the river within city limits. NE Portland roads can’t “escape” this fact.
Easy, just do it at the bridges, no way around.
Exactly. To say that tolling I5 “will not impact NE Portland top roads” is laughable at best.
Oregon HB-2017-10 transportation funding bill requires congestion pricing of *both* I-5 and I-205. How will congestion pricing of *both* I-5 and I-205 impact roadways, m? Explain the logic behind your assertion or keep quiet with these unfounded, misdirected statements.
Portland should start narrowing these by adding bus-only lanes in advance of this.
So if the arterial roads are narrowed what will that do to traffic on side streets in the huge grid that is NE Portland?
I’m sure it will increase cut-through traffic in the absence of diversion, somewhat more than cut-through traffic would increase anyway (and has been increasing dramatically over the past decade). All the more reason for PBOT to find diverter designs that are cheaper than $20,000/diverter.
So if the side streets with resulting increased cut through traffic have diverters installed on them, what will that do to traffic on the nearby side streets in the huge grid that is NE Portland?
If Portland decided this was a priority, and got the lawyers/engineers/mgmt at PBOT to OK diverters that cost $2,000 (cheap concrete planters with reflectors, like Berkeley uses extensively) rather than $20,000, every relevant side street could get four diverters at various points along its length for a small fraction of the estimated cost of this project. (guess: 50 N/S side streets, 100 E/W side streets, 4 diverters needed per street, $2,000 per diverter = $40 million – not including the economies of scale that would accrue from doing this many diverters). This is all a matter of political will, not of things that are truly too difficult/expensive to contemplate.
Is it physically possible to put diverters on all or even most corners? Yes. But not politically. To think otherwise is, IMO, anti-car utopian BS.
Not all or most corners – but on most side streets, about every 20 blocks? Yes, I think this is completely possible.
Traffic would get really slow. This is why Portland should be investing like crazy in transit improvements and bike network improvements. We will need them sooner or later, and it will be cheaper and less painful to enact them sooner. Things are going to change as Portland continues to grow. If we don’t invest in alternatives, there will not be any alternatives and the road network will cease to function. The tiny bandaid at the Rose Quarter will provide a tiny bit of relief for such a short period of time, yet it comes with a huge price tag. This is a misallocation of taxpayer dollars.
If it is between the exits that access Portland and the Columbia or the 205 it should decrease traffic on arterials.
Instead of being tolled for the 18 seconds I’m on the freeway, I would certainly drive Greeley, Interstate, Broadway to work on the one day a week that I can afford to bring my dog to the office.
Put the tolls by bridges like Wilsonville by the Wilamette River
“Get some guts. Have some backbone.”
You have your marching orders, City Council. Do what we elected you to do; make our city better for people, not cars.
If this proposal went to the general public for a vote, it would be a landslide for the freeway being fixed.
See, the idea behind democracy is that we elect leaders and trust most of the decision-making to them, rather than just leaving everything up to a public vote.
How do you propose we elect a leader that will do the opposite of what people want? We as a city and region are growing quickly. If we don’t keep up on freeways, take away roads and build diverters every 20 blocks so that it gets to the point where people can’t drive….. instead of the utopia some here are delusional about, we will instead vote for a massive freeway building spree bigger than what has ever been done.
We need smart growth and smart construction.
I wouldn’t automatically bet on that. And for that matter, what exactly are you proposing they vote on? If they’re being asked what their priorities are, typically freeway expansions aren’t that high on the list. Maintenance of the existing system is usually their main priority. And, this project really isn’t going to make a dramatic improvement for the travel of many, many Portlanders. So why would they vote in favor of it? But if you’re willing to refer it to the ballot, I’d sign your petition. 😉
That’s a good point. Let’s say you could vote on how a half a billion dollars could be spent on roads. Would you rather a) re-jigger 1/2 a mile of I-5 in the Rose Quarter or b) repair every pothole on every road in the metro area*.
*I have no idea what this would actually cost.
They would vote for it for the same reason this group is opposing it. It’s an ideological question.
The opponents do not yield a tangible benefit from their actions either. They oppose it because they oppose all things car-related. The arguments for why this particular project should not happen are concocted after the fact to justify a position already taken.
The advocates that view everything as a zero-sum game should be preparing for the backlash that their constant opposition is fueling.
I cannnot speak for others, but I prefer to make my decisions based on data. The objectives of this projects are 1. Reduce congestion. To date there is no convergence of evidence that suggests adding lanes to highways will reduce congestion. 2. Increase safety. Based on the crash data on the below map virtually none of the hundreds of serious injuries/fatalities occurred on this short stretch of I-5.
The stated purpose of the project is to address non-recurring congestion that happens due to minor crashes that nonetheless snarl up the freeway for hours at a time randomly. So someone may have a 30-minute commute that turns into an hour all of a sudden. That person might lose their job, not be able to pick up their kids on time, etc. This project would address that issue, not the everyday 30-minute commute.
So in short, you are throwing up strawmen and knocking them down, pretending that the project has goals that it doesn’t.
ODOT objectives from their project site:
EASE CONGESTION LEVELS AND IMPROVE SAFETY
ENHANCE PEDESTRIAN AND BICYCLE ROUTES
IMPROVE FREIGHT MOVEMENT
And you are either ignorant or lying. Safety has always been touted as a benefit of this project. They did the same thing with the CRC.
Dismissing complex, considered and nuanced reasons for opposing a project like this as “You just hate cars(freedom)” is lazy.
No. It’s accurate. We both know that a significant percentage of these people opposed the project on principle. Then they sat down to write some “considered and nuanced” reasons.
But hey… if this is what they want to spend their energy on, go for it. I understand that some people get some kind of thrill out of trying to use the government to dictate the behavior of others.
Maybe you mean “hold the government accountable to spend money in a way that benefits society long term”?
Opposing everything ODOT supports without considering the details is a no-brainer time-saving measure for anyone who has dealt with them before.
Trust not ODOT.
Possibly, but this would rely on uninformed/ misinformed voters carrying the vote. This is why every legislative decision isn’t decided by popular vote.
So can someone explain (or has it already been explained) the legal process here? Can Portland actually stop this project? What’s the effect of leaving it out of the Central City Plan?
As I understand, the finished project is entirely within ODOT ROW. If Portland doesn’t go along, then, it seems like the most likely outcome is the State does it anyway, but without the surface street improvements (City jurisdiction). An alternative is they spend the money on another freeway project to “compensate.”
In either case (City can stop it or not) I guess I’m struggling to see a scenario where this $450m, or a meaningful portion thereof, gets spent on purely Portland projects. I just don’t see a majority of legislators around the state deciding that if they can’t “improve” the freeway to help themselves/constituents, that they’re going to dole out a huge amount of scarce resources to help Portlanders get, e.g., safer streets in east Portland.
Per ODOT staffer testimony, you can’t do one without the other (though the answer didn’t seem that convincing) – legislative intent.
In the 1970s when funds were transferred from freeway to Transit projects, it was done because the enabling legislation specifically allowed for it. Lots of cities did this, although Portland claims to be the first and only, neither of those things are true. However, those provisions are no longer included in big transportation packages. Ron Buel’s “back in my day” approach to transportation planning is not going to be successful. If this project dies, the road network in the rose quarter will be exactly the way it is today, 25 years from now.
Correct. That was something you could do back then, but no longer. And that was specifically in regards to federal funds, whereas no federal funds are being used on this project. It’s a specious argument.
It is not a specious argument. Whether it is federal or state funding is irrelevant. The question is simply whether the legislation the creates the funding source allows for this type of transfer, which in this case it does not.
That’s what was frustrating about all this testimony. So many people said “Don’t spend this $450 million” to Portland City Council, but there’s no local money in the project! It’s all state money, used on state-owned right-of-way, for a state-operated highway. City Council has very little sway or leverage. I feel like they are lobbying the wrong entity because it takes too much effort to actually go down to Salem and lobby legislators and the OTC.
1. tending to innovate, or introduce something new or different; characterized by innovation.
Freeway lids are not innovative.
They would be for Portland, right? We’ve never had lids before.
” Buel shared. “And the city council and Mayor Goldschmidt didn’t have a low-level bureaucrat from ODOT telling them what they could or couldn’t do with that money. ”
The guy in the picture looks like someone ODOT called up from central casting to play the part of low level bureaucrat.
I hope this does not go through, but if it does, can we push for an HOV lane all the way through Portland?
If by HOV you mean “buses,” I’ll vote for the plan.
The Legislature did dole out a huge amount: at the 11th hour of the legilative session, they boosted funds for Outer Powell from its original $5 million (HB2017-3 version) to $110 million (adopted HB2017 bill). No other area of the state got anything close to that size of project.
Yes. And a key part of the deal for getting that money for Outer Powell was the inclusion of the Rose Quarter project. I really don’t think Portland would have gotten one without the other. After all, the truck weigh-mile tax was increased, and they don’t care about Powell. The Oregon Trucking Association withdrew their threat of a referral to the ballot because there were enough freight-benefit projects like Rose Quarter in the bill.
I don’t know what source you have but I was following this at a very close level. Portland wanted both projects, offered to pay half of Rose Quarter, and ended up getting both without any local funds being used. They won the big hand at the poker table.
This speculative argument has been made for every part of the package that has come under scrutiny, including the bike tax. The job of the PDX city council is not rubber stamping bad ideas that come out of Salem.
Among other things, give us money to improve those roads for vulnerable road users.
Assuming you will have free access to interstate based tolls is highly optimistic.
That’s a huge leap of faith. Under state law, the revenue goes into a Congestion Relief fund. Doubtful it would go to the projects you want to see.
What DOT is saying to City Council is thus: Legislative intent takes precedence over city plans, and therefore, the project must be built. The Trump administration would likely push for this project, too, based on his notion that keeping freight moving enhances homeland security.
With Irma heading for FL, it’s worth looking at today’s tv footage of every northbound highway tied up in bumper to bumper traffic. Imagine I-5 looking like that thru the construction process of this project, if it ever gets greenlighted.
Interesting to see Ron Buel resurfacing after all these years. He won in the Mt. Hood Freeway debacle, and that’s why we have MAX and the Springwater Trail today.
This is nothing like the Mt. Hood freeway. It’s fixing a stupid freeway design.
The mt hood freeway money also paid for a complete rebuild and expansion of I-84 from gateway to I-5. That always gets conveniently omitted from the conversation.
If this goes forward, what are the odds this comes in at, near or, under $450 million?
Since it will be a bonded project, the $450 million plus the debt service becomes around $758 million in total (assuming 4.5% interest over 25 years), with payments of $30.3 million per year.
Terry Dublinski-Milton, a prominent bike advocate and chair of SE Uplift, testified in favor of the project. So it wasn’t only ODOT speaking up in favor. You should also note that Andre Baugh from the Planning and Sustainability Commission, speaking for the majority of the commission, spoke in favor of the project. Please issue a correction.
I can corroborate the part about Terry. I ran into him yesterday afternoon and he outlined his vision. Tolling first, then this project (assuming the tolling didn’t eliminate the need for the freeway expansion portion of the project), but he wanted it to include a detailed study of reimagining the central city freeway system in the event of a major earthquake. (He thought that removing the Marquam and the Eastbank I-5 segment and re-designating I-405 as I-5 should be strongly considered in such a study).
I would certainly support a redesign of I-5 given its removal from the CEID.
In addition, ODOT’s freight objective may be met through a study of two multimodal bridges respectively: across the Columbia as stated in the common sense alternative, and a bridge across the Willamette near the Georgia Pacific site.
Terry Dublinski-Milton to westside neighborhoods: “Drop dead.”
That also goes for every “advocate” that wants to demolish I-5 in CEID and transfer all the displaced noise, traffic, and pollution to I-405, its interchanges, and the local streets that feed into them.
Congestion Price will, engineer through tolling, ….change social behavior ….there would less SOVs and limited access points. It would also be capped and buried.
The development and park space potential from adding east side park access to the river would be the most transformation the downtown has seen since Harbor Drive was ripped up.
Yep. Toll then study,
Move I 5 to 405, bury or cap
Slip lane tunnels to the Ross Island
MAX bypass PSU to Goose Hollow cutting 20 minutes and a transfer from a Clackamas to Beaverton Transit Center Commute
Redesign the cluster of Interchanges in SW thereby opening up Lair Hill to the city again
REMOVE everything from SW I 5 to I 84 including the Marquam
We can either build it, or wait until the Cascadia Subduction Zone turns everything into rubble…then dust of the study and say “Hey, FEMA…..we want to build this instead.”
I currently understand the comment period is solely on the “Draft purpose and need” document and range of alternatives at this time. Meaningful comments need to either support, question, or point out errors in that document and about the range of alternatives to evaluate (including no build as an alternative). Next it will go to the NEPA EIS process, which includes scoping (including public comment on the scoping), Draft (including public comment on the draft) and final EIS documents. In order to have meaningful comments, during each of the stages above, direct comments on aspects of the project in either purpose/need, scoping in the EIS, finding/analysis in the draft EIS, and comment on the final EIS if you previous comments were/were not addressed would be required to have standing to challenge the project if approved. Just stating “we don’t need this” and calling out ghg’s as a concern do not do much without an analysis to support the comments which the reviewing/approving agency would require to address adequately. Because the project is currently approved in the long range plan by Metro, the Purpose and need and Draft EIS will most likely happen regardless to give the decision makers all the information about the project prior to final approval or denial. This project is not going away in the next 2-3 years.
From the comments at the meeting,
Then again… Maybe it’s a moot point if this WA state Rep gets her way:
If proceeding with the plan won’t occur without tolling and the feds nix the tolls… Maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board on this one.
“Residents of Southwest Washington have been voicing their strong concern to me that Oregon will be forcing them to pay tolls for infrastructure they don’t use and that there’s nothing they can do about it,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement.
Yeah – that was pretty funny.
What? Does she realize how insanely stupid that comment is?
the tolls would go into a fund that would be used throughout Oregon. Drive the 405, pay the toll for the 405 and the tolls go to fix a different street in Oregon. With the proper understanding it is not nearly as stupid as you might think.
How many people from WA drive down I-5 and never use a surface street?
Urban interstates are, by far, the most expensive infrastructure we have, when measured in both capital and maintenance per mile. Most of the funding would go back into the interstate highways. And, as stated above, these Washington drivers are also using surface streets, which we pay for with our property taxes.
Why is this all we talk about anymore? Again, why is nobody talking about the bumpy pavement on the south waterfront trail near John’s Landing? Maybe it’s not as sexy as fighting a trillion dollar highway, but I’m always worried my lunch container is going to pop open and spill into my bag when I ride over it. Can we just talk a little bit more every now and then about some smaller improvements we can also make?
And I understand this isn’t LITERALLY all we talk about, but infrastructure-wise this seems to have become the ONLY focus.
Sounds like a good subscriber post.
Sorry. I misread your post. Every 20 blocks, maybe.
Meanwhile, efforts to stop tolling are occurring elsewhere
Rich people…you take I-5
Poor people…you wait on Interstate.
Wasn’t class segregation outlawed in the 60s?
Money has to come from somewhere. Do you support more regressive user fees (car registration, gas tax, transit fares) versus fees for people who travel by car during the most congested time of day?
This seems applicable:
“Svadlenak and Jones (1998) found that of adult residents in the Portland, OR, area who travel during peak hours in single-occupant vehicles, approximately 3 percent are low-income commuters.”
Depends on what the money is going to be spent on.
So let me understand this, you support implementing a toll that will shift traffic to city streets which in turn will increase pollution and increase vehicles deaths since more people die on accidents on city streets than on the freeway? Sure, go for it. That makes a lot of sense!
I don’t support dumping half a billion dollars into this project in the first place.
I think that was race segregation. Class segregation has been going strong since the 1980’s and the election of Reagan. Neoliberal politcal and economic forces have been segregating housing and education by income at a break neck pace. We can certainly figure out ways to compensate the 3% of the rush hour commuter traffic that are poor and not let it derail one of the only effective ways to control congestion.
Also, see our income tax, which explicitly discriminates on income levels (a reasonable proxy for class).
1980’s eh? If you’d said 1580’s you would have seemed more credible.
Can you name any place and time that class segregation has not existed?
Tolling all the lanes isn’t the only way to do congestion pricing. You can also take one lane and toll it, setting the price to create a speed of around 55 mph in that lane. That speed represents the highest throughput in terms of cars per hour possible as at higher speeds people tend to leave more space. This type of set up allows people who are in a hurry to pay to go faster and also leaves the other lanes less congested than they would have been otherwise since the tolled lane is moving the maximum number of cars.
Sure, but then we need enforcement. And with that comes the opponents to tell us that enforcement, fines, etc are racist and classist.
For those interested in the full testimony from last night’s CoP Council Session (3+ hours): https://youtu.be/vtjo2wRPf0Q?t=487
And here is the point where the ODoT testimony starts: https://youtu.be/vtjo2wRPf0Q?t=8212
And now Washington’s rep has moved to block all tolling, time to kill this unnecessary freeway expansion.
How is this a freeway expansion? It’s fixing a merge point.
Expansion, a noun meaning the process of becoming greater in size, the proposal is not a restriping with the same footprint, it will make the freeway wider, hence it is an expansion.
That’s nothing to worry about Bjorn. Just political theater.
I think Washington is maneuvering to have a say in the tolls and what they end up being spent on. I see an amendment in the future to ensure a portion of the funds raised go to improvements to the I-5 Columbia river crossing.
I have the solution. Don’t expand the lanes thru downtown. Just shut down all on-ramps from the Terwilliger curves to the Columbia river. Portlanders don’t want a freeway? Fine, make it so they can’t use it. There – fixed it for you.
I can say that the expansion of Hwy 26, and the expansion of I-5 thru Seattle did help congestion. Can you imaging if Hwy 26 east of 185th was still 2-lane? It would never move. So, that was money well spent.
This is a great idea, but to be fair we need to shut down all the off-ramps too, so Jeff and Tammy from the burbs don’t take the freeway in for the Taylor Swift concert but get trapped in the hood and can’t get home.
Modern life in the city is complicated. So is transportation planning. Calling it a freeway widening project strikes me as disingenuous reductionism. I think the changes to the freeway are elementary and will help flow, whether it’s moving at 5 or 50 mph.
I, for one, support this project. I hardly drive the freeway there, but ride through the Rose Quarter by bike regularly.
I reviewed the project design and find it will improve my bike commute from Concordia to downtown. I like the easier connection from the Rose Quarter to the south end of the Rodney Greenway. Everyone who uses the Vancouver/Williams corridor will benefit. It will also create open space where currently there are gaping holes.
I-5 south of the Interstate Bridge narrowed to 2 lanes in each direction over the Delta Park viaduct contributing to daily backups in that area. In 2009 or 2010 the freeway was expanded to 3 lanes each direction which reduced (but did not eliminate) congestion through that stretch of freeway. I guess one could classify that as a “widening” but to me it was the elimination of a pinch point, same as the proposed Rose Quarter improvements.
I think I need a better understanding of where all the pinch points are on I-5. I-5 north in the evenings seems to be congested from around Ross Island to Vancouver. I don’t see how widening it in the Rose Quarter is going to affect all of the congestion north of it.
This is an interesting theory, but I don’t buy it, and if it’s true, it seems to me that the burden is on ODOT to prove it. If it IS true, I’m sure there are lots of highways in the US where fixing a pinch point near the beginning of a congestion zone resulted in clearing out the congestion miles down the road. Let’s see an example.
Great example. How does the average commute time from Portland to Vancouver during the evening commute now compare to 2007? The same? Shorter? Longer?
Does your definition of “reducing congestion” mean more cars with the same or slower commute times? Some would call this induced demand. I don’t think that commute times on I-5 from PDX to the ‘Couv are faster now than they were 10 years ago.
How is it, exactly, that you distinguish induced demand from natural growth in demand due to factors such as population growth?
I know it when I see it?
Good question. As far as I’m aware there is not a consensus in parsing this out; primarily because of the “chicken or egg” factor. However, I would hesitate to refer to population growth and distribution as natural growth. On a practical level, I am not sure that this distinction matters.
We expect the amount of transportation to grow with the population. The question is not only “do we restrict or augment transportation across the board?” it is “if we invest in transportation, which transportation infrastructure gives us the most return on investment.” The return on investment that city council, the state legislature and the governor’s office are focused on appears to be heavily weighted with political returns. It also seems like there is frustration that making deals with freight, rural legislators and ODOT is not as tantalizing for people who oppose increased SOV trips as it is for people in politics.
Opposition to the RQ widening is opposition to the continued investment “dirty transportation.” It is crucial that people take a stand every time the decision to spend resources on harmful infrastructure is on the table. The mindless status quo of supporting the dominant mode of SOV car trips is the biggest factor driving the RQ project. Ultimately, it is the SOV default mode that is being challenged. While some public employees might whine about how hard their jobs are and how nobody understands them, they would be better off using the momentum of the opposition to highway expansion to do things are truly innovative and beneficial.
Induced demand can be very positive if it is applied to a smart form of transportation. For example, “Kate induced demand for safe, sustainable and healthy transportation that improved the lives of Washingtonians and Oregonians by investing adequate resources in public transportation across the Columbia river.”
“Natural growth” in the outer-suburbs IS induced demand. Developments in these areas would not be viable without fast freeway connections to employment centers. We should be encouraging growth in the center of our metro area, not at the fringes.
These “fast freeway connections” you describe no longer exist, and yet there is growth.
While you and I may be drawn to city living, many others are not, and prefer to live “out in the country” even if it means suffering a long commute.
Highway capacity induced demand does exist, but it does not explain everything. Not even most things.
Sure, highway capacity induced demand doesn’t explain fruit stickers, willingness to buy $4.00 lattes, or 5-bedroom houses with two people in them. But it, along with land-use regulations, topography, employment patterns, driving costs, and to a lesser extent transit infrastructure, explains an awful lot of the difference in sprawl between various metro areas globally.
So, it, along with everything else, explains sprawl. The point is that even when highways are jammed, people continue using them, so it’s not the high-speed free flow of traffic that’s “inducing” them to drive. I do not believe that fixing the merge issues in this spot is likely to induce more. There will still be plenty of congestion in the system.
My family doesn’t drive to NE Portland for dinner, even though there are a number of restaurants there we would love to visit more often. We know there is loads of traffic on the road during that time, and we don’t want to contribute to it. If the congestion on I-5 was reduced, we would drive on it more frequently.
There’s your induced demand.
Sure, except we have near universal agreement the RQ project would not address congestion, so you’ll still have to eat off peak.
And “employment centers” wouldn’t be possible without these road connections. What’s your point?
Oh right… we’re pretending that Portland is going to keep cars off of a border to border interstate highway because a couple of people here hate automobiles. Good luck.
We aren’t going to “keep them off the interstate”. We have no mechanism for that. What we will do, is fight to prevent our tax dollars from subsidizing their wasteful habits. And now you might understand the point of this article?
No, the people at the “fringes” should be employed at the “fringes.
“fast” freeways is laughable, apparently you never get on them…
But many of the employment centers ARE in the suburbs. Traffic crawls from the city center out to the burbs. There is definitely congestion in every direction.
SD >> I’m not suggesting that commute time was decreased due to removing the pinch point at Delta Park; the question is how much worse would it be if the pinch-point still existed with today’s increased traffic count?
Based on your second post, it appears you have an aversion to SOV in general, referring to them as “dirty transportation” and lament politicians that essentially cater to the base which elected them. The reality is that the general population is not ready to give up its SOV and if a politician were to effectively implement an anti-SOV program, I highly doubt they would be re-elected. I am very skeptical any member of the City Council will vote against the RQ project (although they may include concessions such as tolling). I make this comment in light of the obvious fact that drivers are currently willing to deal with traffic congestion instead of using public transportation. Now I am not saying that we should not continue to improve and expand public transportation and to aggressively educate the general public of the various benefits, I am just observing that it is a process that takes time. You may dismiss that as unacceptable, but I am old enough to recall back in the 1970s drivers were complaining about freeway congestion but no one was offering alternatives; since then we have built the MAX system, expanded bus service and actively encouraged other modes of transportation; so I at least see progress. I also believe SOV are not going away; the history of personal transportation has always been such – first walking, then using animals, and now automobiles. The only time mass transportation was really popular was roughly the 1870s to maybe the late 1920s when city dwellers had no other commute options available. I believe that the future of SOV will be a combination of self-driving electric vehicles, congestion tolling, and changes in the workplace (i.e., staggered work hours, working from home, etc.).
Regards the related issue of induced demand, there appears to be a fine line between that and increased demand due to the general growth in population. I have not done exhaustive research, but what I have read leads me to conclude that not much in-depth study has been published with most references being subjective at best or very specific to a particular situation. I agree that construction of the urban freeway system resulted in suburban sprawl, but the question now is how to deal with the built environment. Opposing every adjustment or improvement in my opinion is useless and merely increases the divide. It would seem a better approach is what this project proposes – an improvement to the freeway system offset (at least to some extent) by improvements for other modes of transportation.
On questioning the ODOT liaison about using the state funds for only doing the surface improvements and not the auxilarary lanes, I say it’s either both or nothing. You can’t send city and Metro staff down to Salem for months and claim this project is the Metro regions #1 priority, then get the funds in the passed bill, and then later do a “bait and switch” with the money. Or to be more specific, ethically you shouldn’t do that, though Portland actually does this frequently claiming they are a special case where rules and process shouldn’t apply to them! Remember that originally Metro wanted $1 billion in projects and proposed raising half the funds with a regional fuel and registration surtax, with the state paying for the other half with a new 1% new vehicle tax (“dealer privilege tax”); however after the draft bill went in the back rooms of the Legislature, the Metro area got their billion of new projects with NO local contribution. No hyperbole here, it’s just a fact.
This is all very interesting, but good policy and infrastructure are more important to me than balancing the transgressions of Salem and Metro.
Eugene? Hell, I want traffic backed up all the way to California to stop the inmigration!
Not sure this liberal vs conservative label is very usefull when applied to the debate over freeways and cars. A true ayn rand type conservative would not want any public subsidies or payment for cars or infrastructure. Their idiology would be for 100% payment of highways through private ownership and tolls. Such a person would believe that if these toll roads were congested prices should be raised to keep the riff raff out of the way of the “job creators”.
Ah yes, and fixing a 1/2 mile in the Rose Quarter will magically solve all of this!