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Touting list of benefits, ODOT releases I-5 Rose Quarter project environmental assessment

Posted by on February 15th, 2019 at 8:54 am

As expected, the Oregon Department of Transportation released the Environmental Assessment for the I-5 Rose Quarter Project today. Now the clock starts ticking on the 45-day comment period.

The Assessment is very lengthy and technical. It’s easy to understand why PBOT Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, the Audubon Society of Portland, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, No More Freeways, and dozens of other groups requested more time to analyze the documents and prepare their feedback.

We’ll be taking a closer look at the Assessment, particularly its findings on the project’s impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, traffic volumes, and so on. Another valuable things this EA document provides is a clear look at the bicycling infrastructure elements of the project (something we’re overdue on sharing in detail here on the front page).

Routes are various segments of I-5 between I-84 and the Fremont Bridge.

A few things of note that I found in a quick scan is that ODOT claims that if they build the project GHG will actually go down (versus current conditions). They also promise that the new lanes will come with an increase in speeds and substantial time savings for I-5 users. “The build alternative is a safety improvement project that would not substantially improve highway capacity and would not be expected to induce growth or create other effects that would cause indirect impacts,” states the Climate Change Technical Report (on page 34).

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Also of note is the Executive Summary where ODOT addresses “anticipated adverse impacts” of the project. Where I think many transportation reform-minded readers would consider the expansion of an urban freeway and the improvements to driving access that comes with it to present obvious adverse impacts (by encouraging the use of the most inefficient and destructive form of transportation available), in their answer to this question ODOT only lists negative impacts that would occur during construction.

Here’s a summary of the main findings as provided in a statement by ODOT:

Improved safety for all transportation modes – New crossings over I-5, protected bike lanes, wider sidewalks, improved striping and upgraded signals would mean safer local streets and new connections for everyone. On I-5, new shoulders would give disabled vehicles a way to get out of travel lanes and new ramp-to-ramp connections will mean less stop and go traffic, less emergency braking and more time and space for drivers to merge, which will reduce frequent crashes and improve travel times.

Improved air quality – The assessment modeled air pollutant emissions, which found that air quality would slightly improve with the project, as compared to not building the project. The estimated reduction in emissions caused by the project would likely be due to the higher speeds and less idling on the highway and reduced congestion from the project. Building the project “is not expected to cause air quality impacts nor contribute to cumulative effects on air quality beyond temporary construction effects, which would be addressed by requiring contractors to implement a variety of mitigation measures.”

Slightly decreased carbon emissions. As with the reduction in overall air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions would slightly reduce with the project, as compared to not building the project. Emissions would be slightly better with the project due to reduced congestion and fewer starts and stops within the project area. “Because greenhouse gas emissions have been identified as a primary cause of climate change effects, any potential decrease in these emissions would be expected to support emission-reduction efforts intended to reduce future climate-related impacts,’” the assessment found.

Benefits for communities – The assessment found that the project, as proposed, would improve access to public transit; improve mobility and safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders; and improve connections to areas east and west of I-5 provided by the new highway covers and the Clackamas bicycle/pedestrian overcrossing.

A proposed sound wall would reduce noise levels. A sound wall, recommended for the area between I-5 and Harriet Tubman Middle School, would reduce highway noise inside the school. “This would be a beneficial reduction in noise compared to existing noise levels at the school,” the environmental assessment found.

You can view all the documents here. ODOT has also just released an online open house that will be available through April 1st. Happy reading, and let us know if you find anything interesting. We’ll be posting more here on the Front Page in the coming weeks.

In related news, the No More Freeways coalition is hosting a volunteer orientation event this coming Wednesday, February 20th. They’re looking for people to help them hand out flyers, testify, plan events, and strategize.

ODOT will host a public open house on March 7th from 5:30 to 8:00 pm at Leftbank Annex (101 N Weidler) and the big public hearing will take place on March 12th from 4:30 to 6:00 pm at the Oregon Convention Center.

Once you’re ready to comment, you can do so via email to ODOT (Attn: Megan Channell, 123 NW Flanders St., Portland Oregon 97209), by leaving a message at (503) 423-3760, or by emailing info@i5rosequarter.org.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Dirk
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Dirk

What about all the emissions created by the construction events?

maccoinnich
Subscriber

First reaction: they’ve released the report as a PDF made of a series of raster images which means a) it’s not accessible to anyone who uses text to speech and b) it’s not possible to search the text.

Joe Hand
Guest
Joe Hand

Pretty amazing that the first goal is “Enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety and mobility in the vicinity of the Broadway/Weidler interchange.”

Then the “No Build” alternative only mentions cars and freight…

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Call Ocasio Cortez in for consultation! Even pay her if necessary. If she and a small band of common sense rabble rousers can stop Amazon, she can provide advice on a way to stop this boondoggle! Let’s go!

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

I read the GHG chart differently. It looks to me like GHG are going down anyway and the project doesn’t add that much.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Assuming we completely ignore the effects of induced demand, right?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Yum, I love me some ODOT propaganda in the morning!

X
Guest
X

Wait, didn’t ODOT retire or quit or something? I just woke up from a three day hangover. Too soon?

maxD
Guest
maxD

I find it very troubling how much blatant greenwashing is in this report and the graphics especially. In particular, the lids are shown as green spaces with trees growing on them. Contrast that with the description:
“The Vancouver/Hancock highway cover would be a concrete or steel platform that spans east-west across I-5 and to the north and south of N/NE Hancock. Like the Broadway/Weidler/Williams highway cover, this highway cover would provide additional surface area above I-5. The highway cover would provide an opportunity for public space and a new connection across I-5 for all modes of travel.”
The lids are specifically being built as minimal as possible to be used for construction staging. They are NOT being designed or built for urban design benefits OR to support landscape. There is no way landscape can be sustained here without substantial soil being added and permanent irrigation being included. PBOT has reduced its landscape maintenance budget to zero- they have walked away from every piece of landscape they had previously committed to maintain. Parks does not have the budget to pay for water and maintenance on a piece of land like this with extremely limited value as openspace (loud, disconnected, etc). Is ODOT going to pay for on-going irrigation and landscape maintenance?! Please show me one single ODOT-owned and managed facility in the State that would inspire confidence. These lids are guaranteed to miserable urban voids, as bad or possibly worse than what we have currently since they are spanning a larger expanse of freeway.

This proposal is a horrible idea on every level and it a a real blow to the climate, but the blatant lies about the lids really makes me angry!

joan
Subscriber

‘A proposed sound wall would reduce noise levels. A sound wall, recommended for the area between I-5 and Harriet Tubman Middle School, would reduce highway noise inside the school. “This would be a beneficial reduction in noise compared to existing noise levels at the school,” the environmental assessment found.’

Okay, so this project is certainly not required to build a sound wall between Tubman and I5. It’s not clear why they didn’t build a wall when they originally built the freeway or in the many years since then. But, to suggest that building this wall is a benefit of the project — when they could build a wall right now if they wanted — is quite disingenuous.

joan
Subscriber

In the executive summary, there’s a question: “How has the Project addressed the history of environmental justice in the area?”

And the answer, over three paragraphs, is basically, “We talked to black people and other folks in the neighborhood.” Which is to say, ODOT has ignored the issue of environmental justice, because talking to people about what you are going to do is not the same as actually addressing environmental racism. Infuriating.

Induced BS
Guest
Induced BS

Looks like the same kind of BS modeling Garret/ODOT got caught lying about before.

https://www.wweek.com/news/2015/11/18/senate-republicans-say-odot-brass-knew-carbon-emission-numbers-were-fatally-flawed/

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Funny how ODOT thinks the build vs. no-build option will make almost no difference in GHG emissions, and those emissions will magically drop by a huge amount on their own.

Never mind that vehicle fuel economy improvements have essentially stalled due to cheap gas, apathy and ever-increasing vehicle sizes (median passenger vehicle now in excess of 4000 pounds … hey, just like back in the Seventies!)

I’m trying to understand how GHG emissions will be the same whether or not we build it. Are they saying (a) the amount of extra emissions that would be caused by idling vehicles (mostly 1-4 minute longer travel times based on their chart) under no-build is more or less equal to (b) the amount of extra emissions that would be caused by so-called* induced demand under the build scenario? I think most knowledgeable people realize the expanded road will fill up and you’ll have even more cars idling in stop-and-go traffic.

* the economist in me cringes at the term “induced” demand. You’re not making people get in their cars when you increase roadway capacity. (“Oooh, look at me, a beautiful empty road! Aren’t I enticing? My pavement compels you to drive on me!”) When you make any good (in this case, use of the roadway) less costly (in time, a commodity even more finite than money), the more people will consume it. Economics as well as transportation planning dictate that empty roadways will fill up again. But we Dismal Scientists call the effect demand elasticity, not induced demand. /semantic quibble

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

It looks like the case is pretty well made in the report that the NO CHANGE option gives a better air quality result in 2045 than the one with change.
“Let the Californicators and the Washington commuters stay away.”
Just a quote from ex Governor McCall

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

This was a great move by ODOT. Now people see, in writing, ODOT will lie to ensure nonstop freeway building no matter the reasoning or lack of reasoning. One step closer to disbanding ODOT as it stands today….

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

One half of a billion dollars… for a zero-point-two percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, and that is only *if* ODOT’s numbers prove to be true.

ODOT’s project is a joke.

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

> Documents the Senate Republicans obtained under Oregon’s public records law appear to show that Garrett and other officials knew as early as June 10 the carbon numbers were flawed—two weeks before the hearing.

https://www.wweek.com/news/2015/11/18/senate-republicans-say-odot-brass-knew-carbon-emission-numbers-were-fatally-flawed/