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Wonk Night Wednesday (3/6): Let’s talk about the I-5 Rose Quarter project

Posted by on February 28th, 2019 at 3:46 pm

What’s the purpose of this proposed overcrossing at NE Clackamas street? Is it only to dress up the plan drawings and hide the widening of the freeway beneath it? (Graphics: ODOT)

While the fact that the Oregon Department of Transportation wants to widen I-5 through our central city gets most of the attention (reasonably so), an estimated half of the project’s $500 million price tag will be spent on surface streets and non-freeway infrastructure.

If the I-5 Rose Quarter project ever gets built, what does ODOT and the Portland Bureau of Transportation have in mind for people who use this area on foot, on bikes, and other low-impact mobility devices? What can we do as a community to make sure that if we make a big investment in the Rose Quarter, we get the most possible bang for our buck? What can you do to influence this project?

If you have questions, are maybe feeling a bit overwhelmed by ODOT’s environmental assessment (EA) documents, and want to learn more about where things stand on this mega-project, we’d like to invite you to a special Wonk Night next week.

Join us this Wednesday (3/6) at 6:00pm in the offices of Lancaster Engineering (321 SW 4th Avenue, 4th Floor). We’ll have Q & As with smart people, break into groups and delve more deeply into the EA, learn from each others perspectives, and ultimately — set ourselves up to have a strong influence on the project.


On Wednesday night we’ll be joined by leaders from the community including volunteers from Bike Loud PDX, engineers and planners from Lancaster Engineering (our host), reps from No More Freeways PDX, Planning & Sustainability Commissioner Chris Smith, City Observatory economist and writer Joe Cortright, Iain MacKenzie from Next Portland, and others.

Everyone is welcome (agency staff too!). The goal of the event is to connect with each other, raise awareness about the project, and help us all make well-informed comments about the EA. And you’ll note that our event is the night before ODOT’s big public open house on the project (that was no accident).

In conclusion, I’ll leave you with comments about the project made by PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly earlier this month:

“We are prioritizing public engagement because this project is one of the most significant transportation efforts in recent years. It will have an enormous impact on how people from across the region and even across the state travel to, through, and around Portland. I want to ensure that this project reflects our values, particularly our commitment to equity, sustainability, and safety.

ODOT and other state transportation leaders need to hear that the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project must do more than make it easier to merge on highways in the Rose Quarter. Consistent with Central City 2035 (adopted by City Council in May 2018), a project that focuses exclusively on the comfort of highway drivers is unacceptable. This is why the City partnered with ODOT to ensure that this venture prioritizes the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. It should make it dramatically easier and safer for people walking, biking, taking transit, and driving in the Rose Quarter.”

Bring your questions, some snacks and some drinks to share (we’re trying to roust some donations but not sure if anything will come through in time), and please consider joining us.

Wonk Night: I-5 Rose Quarter project

Wednesday, March 6th, 6:00 to 8:00 pm

Lancaster Engineering – 321 SW 4th Avenue, 4th Floor)

(If you’ve never been to a Wonk Night, read the recaps below to get a sense of how they go.)

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

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    Chris Smith February 28, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    I don’t think we’ll have hard copies of the EA, so I’d encourage folks to bring laptops with which we can view the documents and diagrams.

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      briandavispdx March 6, 2019 at 1:42 pm

      I can print a few copies (depending upon what folks thing is a good compromise between accessibility and conservation).

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        Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 6, 2019 at 1:49 pm

        that would be great brian. I don’t think we need a ton of copies. 3-4 ought to do it. sharing is good because it builds relationships 😉

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          briandavispdx March 6, 2019 at 3:10 pm


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    Todd Boulanger February 28, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    One thing that I would hope public comment and then the DEIS would add: would be to “require” that the DOT (or other state agency) install air quality, sound and temperature sensors along these projects and monitor this capital “enhancement” impact…as “no data = no problem”…as in everything is coolio, man.

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      Chris Smith February 28, 2019 at 5:47 pm

      Todd, there’s no DEIS coming. The EA is all we get before a record of decision (unless somebody sues – hint, hint).

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        JR March 1, 2019 at 9:09 am

        Sorry to get a bit wonky, but there are two possible outcomes from an EA.
        1. ODOT convinces FHWA (the lead agency) to make a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). That’s it, project moves forward. This is currently the expected outcome, otherwise most participants wouldn’t waste time with an EA.
        2. The lead federal agency fails to make a FONSI, then the project starts over with a draft and then final EIS, which ultimately results in a record of decision (ROD). This process would add years to the schedule. Some projects have gone this path in the past and it is a less than ideal outcome for a project sponsor.

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    David Hampsten March 1, 2019 at 8:51 am

    I love your before-and-after graphic for the Lloyd crossing. Here we are, fighting climate change, and what do we see? In order to put in a new bike bridge, we have to cut down half the trees and expand impermeable car traffic surfaces on both city streets and on the I-84 freeway.


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      maxD March 1, 2019 at 9:26 am

      I agree, and I am compelled to point out that the “after” image is once again full of green-washing. ODOT will never allow trees to be planted that close to the highway. The image shows many more trees (2X’s) than what will be planted. The tress on the outside of the ROW are too close, and the trees between the ramps and travel lanes will not be allowed to be planted. I wish someone would call ODOT on these blatant lies! Either they should correct their misleading graphics to represent their current standards or they should commit now to accepting aggressively modified standards that allow more trees. A picture is worth a thousand words, and this picture is one thousand untrue words

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    Dan A March 1, 2019 at 9:41 am

    It’s hard to tell with the .gif blinking back & forth, but it appears that the Build Alternative picture is showing fewer vehicles on I-5(!). Widen the freeway, and fewer vehicles will use it. ODOT, that is some serious witchcraft!

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    Nathan March 1, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    How do HOV lanes not make it into every discussion about highway widening or tolls? Multi-modal transport works great if it’s efficient. Every new lane installed must be an HOV lane, can we just make that the rule?!

    Imagine how much easier of a sell public transit would be if we actually had express buses/trains that would be better than private automobile travel times!!

    We are pretty much the only decent sized city that doesn’t have HOV lanes. A continuous HOV lane from north Vancouver to Tualatin on I-5 and I-205, on i-84 from troutdale, one on hwy 26 and one on 217 would be crazy. Let’s not add new lanes. Just take one lane away to become HOV. Force it on people!! It’ll never happen but that would be the actual revolutionary move to push people towards some sort of multimodal movement. Actually following through with the size of planned park-and-ride facilities would probably help too.

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      David Hampsten March 1, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      The people who bitch loudest to ODOT against HOV lanes are Oregon state legislators on their way to Seattle sports events.

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    Roberta Robles March 1, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    I can’t even believe this is being bundled together with Albina Vision. We should make very clear that all advocates want to see environmental justice for these neighborhoods that is not up for ransom for an ‘auxiliary’ lane. Let’s be very clear that this bundling and fast track through an Environmental Assessment process and not DEIS is another high level burecratoc tactic to avoid the same fiasco that befell the Columbia River Crossing. FWIW Environmental Assessments for replacement projects. Calling this an auxiliary lane and tucking it into an EA process instead of a DEIS is another form of environmental justice on our time. Instead of organizing Rose Quarter comments we should be in Salem asking for more retirements
    like Matt Garret. Stop strapping the Albina Vision to an ODOT boondoggle.

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    truthseeker March 6, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    all you car haters want to do is take away ALL driving lanes – lanes have been lost on Interstate, Killingsworth, Foster, Burnside and soon to be on 102nd, and Glisan

    all the takings will accomplish is more traffic, will just drive up demand and prices of rent and mortages in the central city

    if that is what you want, then support it – but just know that unless you are super rich – you will be forced out of Portland

    the truth is real

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    truthseeker March 6, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    we also need a westside bypass – for vehicles just going thru Portland without stopping – and to stop the cars going from Hillsboro to Vancouver to stop coming into north Portland

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    mark smith March 6, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    Sure, we will give you a crossing we should have given you decades ago. But..only if you accept more lanes, more traffic, more noise, more pollution, land lost forever to cars…for one lousy bridge. But, we won’t give you a super highway that runs parallel to the car highway. Nope. Zip. Nope.

    Just imagein if we had a super highway that ran parallel to car highways? Just think.

    And no bike org is talking about that. Not one.

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