Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 5th, 2020 at 10:14 am
There’s a good reason why the Oregon Department of Transportation abhors delay when it comes to their freeway expansion megaprojects: Because the longer reporters and advocates have to dig into the details, the more dirt they find.
Case in point: The Pulitzer Prize-winning Willamette Week reports today that Mayor Ted Wheeler, the Portland Parks & Recreational bureau and ODOT have been negotiating over potential negative impacts the I-5 Rose Quarter project will impact the Eastbank Esplanade.
As we shared in March 2019, ODOT’s own analysis makes it clear that their plans to expand I-5 would come with negative impacts to users of the Esplanade. The additional freeway lanes would cast a larger shadow of darkness, noise, and pollution over the popular path. In today’s Willamette Week, the conservation director of Portland Audubon said, “The way the ramps would jet out over the esplanade [it would] essentially make it into something of a cave, increasing noise, increasing pollution, increasing shadowing, undermining the experience that people will have at a time when this community is prioritizing reconnecting with the river.”
The Willamette Week story explains that because of these potential impacts, the City of Portland has added leverage to delay the project. Here’s more from their story:
For highway engineers to proceed, the city of Portland has to agree in writing to proposed changes to the Eastbank Esplanade. Federal law says that can happen one of two ways: The city could agree that allowing the highway to hang over the esplanade is a minimal change to the waterfront. Or the city and state could reach a deal in which the state would agree to make improvements to the park to compensate the city for any changes.
Mayor Ted Wheeler could order Portland Parks & Recreation to reach such a deal. Or he could refuse—and call for the Oregon Department of Transportation to take a closer look at the health effects of the freeway expansion on parkgoers.
“I hope the city will not sign off,” says Sallinger. “This is where the city needs to use its leverage.”
In December, Mayor Wheeler asked ODOT to complete a more thorough analysis of the project via an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Now he has an opportunity to put those stated concerns (which are shared by numerous elected officials and organizations) into real action.
For more details, read the full story in the Willamette Week.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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