Metro opens comment period, will delay vote on $35 million in I-5 project planning

I-5 bike paths near Northeast Marine Drive.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

It looks like Metro wants to give the public more time to voice their opinions on whether or not Oregon should pony up another $35 million in planning expenses for a project that would expand I-5 between north Portland and Vancouver and replace the Interstate Bridge.

As we reported on November 19th, the Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR) project wants $71 million more dollars to continue the planning and preliminary engineering phase of their project (on top of $9 million already spent and $175 million spent on their first failed attempt known as the Columbia River Crossing) Washington has already agreed to pay their share of $36 million, and two Metro advisory committees have voted in support of Oregon’s $35 million.

A broad coalition of activists have pressured Metro to withhold the funding until the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) can prove the project won’t be just another freeway expansion that induces more driving demand and contributes to more greenhouse gas emissions.

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Last week Oregon State Representative Khanh Pham (District 46) joined the chorus of concerns. In a letter to Metro Council she urged them to “reconsider” their investment in the project. “Given the failures from the CRC Bridge project of last decade, heightened awareness of local impacts from climate change, and need to invest in local roads and bridges that have suffered from decades of under-investment, I believe more due diligence is needed,” Pham wrote. “Every dollar saved is a dollar that can be used for other transportation projects our communities desperately need.”

The Metro Council vote was initially slated for December 2nd. But this morning we noticed Metro posted notice for a 30-day comment period on November 24th (last week). That comment period won’t end until December 24th. If that holds, wouldn’t the council vote have to come after the comment period? When we asked a Metro spokesperson for clarification, they said the vote would be pushed back to December 9th because of schedule conflicts from President Lynn Peterson and a key project staffer. OK, then why accept comments through December 24th?

It appears Metro has made an error and someone forgot to publish the public comment notice when they should have, and that means the council vote might now have to be delayed until after the comment period ends, which would be beginning of January 2022. I’m working to confirm the date of the final vote and will update this post when I learn more.

For now, make sure to visit the public comment page on Metro’s website and then email your feedback to Summer Blackhorse at summer.blackhorse@oregonmetro.gov.

UPDATE, 11/30 at 8:30 am: Metro spokesperson Nick Christensen says the public comment period has been extended to December 28th and the Metro Council will vote in January 2022.

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Kiel Johnson / Go By Bike

comment sent!

Chris
Chris
7 months ago

Hey Jonathan, the link ‘posted notice for a 30-day comment period’ doesn’t appear to be working.

Thanks.

Sal F
Sal F
7 months ago

The interstate bridge and required I-5 modifications will bring large economic benefits to the entire West Coast of North America. It will provide less traffic delays for goods as well as provide improved public transit and bicycle access between Portland and Vancouver, WA. Trying to keep the economic engine of transportation in gridlock will not serve any beneficial purpose except make us less competitive on the world stage. Let’s not move backwards.

cmh89
cmh89
7 months ago
Reply to  Sal F

I mean, you’re wrong on all counts. There will be just as much gridlock because the throughput in Portland itself will be the same. Motorist will just be able to idle in ten lanes instead of the 6-8 they have now.

This highway expansion project also isn’t slated to improve public transit nor bicycle access between Portland and Vancouver so I’m not sure what you’re talking about there. Perhaps something you just made up?

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

The project also isn’t slated to improve public transit nor bicycle access between Portland and Vancouver.

You expect the project to be built without light rail or improved bike facilities? I can’t even imagine that happening (though we can debate whether a much higher climb is a worthwhile tradeoff for not feeling like you’re going to pitch head-first off the bridge and into the Columbia).

cmh89
cmh89
6 months ago
Reply to  Watts

You expect the project to be built without light rail or improved bike facilities?

I’d say there’s maybe a 25% it gets built with light rail. The most likely outcome is buses get lanes on the bridge and then sit in the traffic crunch like everyone else.

I’d say there is 0% chance of improvement for bicycle/pedestrian access between Portland and Vancouver. I’d guess the same thing, some dedicated lanes on the bridge that connect to infrastructure ranging from bad to outright dangerous on either side. Unless I’m missing something I haven’t seen any plans that indicate how the bike infra on the bridge will connect with the rest of our “bike network”. Just another waste of money to build an island of safety no one can use.

clay
clay
7 months ago
Reply to  Sal F

There’s an approach to addressing those problems that doesn’t involve spending $5,000,000,000+ on doubling the size of a sprawl-inducing car sewer: https://cityobservatory.org/how-to-solve-traffic-congestion-a-miracle-in-louisville/. This approach, unlike every other freeway expansion in history, may actually resolve congestion issues. We should try it first before blowing that money on an approach that we know will fail.

1kw
1kw
6 months ago
Reply to  clay

I 100% agree, where are our tolls? How many more years? Google “toll roads”, and the first 30 hits are links to “wasteful county/city/state spending motorist money poorly”etc.. maybe this is why. Thanks for posting article link though.

Aaron
6 months ago
Reply to  Sal F

Sal, curious of you to comment here. As far as I can tell, this seems like this is your first post on bikeportland, and your paragraph seems almost exclusively pulled word from word from the talking points the IBR team is putting out. Did you just copy and paste this from the IBR website? Are you an actual person, or just an astro-turfed comment from some consultant getting paid to manufacture consent for this massive bridge?

BreadBoi
6 months ago
Reply to  Sal F

Bud. You don’t gotta spend your free time shilling for ODOT. Unless you’re a paid shill, in which case keep up the good work!

Kim Kota
Kim Kota
7 months ago

This project will provide such improved bike access. I can’t wait! Metro finally seems to be spending some money on things that benefit us cyclists.

clay
clay
7 months ago
Reply to  Kim Kota

If it were the true ambition, we could improve bike access for less than 0.1% of the cost of this project, and do so without inviting thousands of more people to move to Clark County who all depend on crossing a bridge at the same time twice a day to get to work and back, choking our city streets with more car commuter traffic.

nuovorecord
nuovorecord
7 months ago
Reply to  Kim Kota

Metro isn’t spending a dime here. This is ODOT’s money. But Metro controls the regional spending plan (MTIP). If funding for any major project isn’t included in the MTIP project list, then the funding can’t be spent that project until it is.

That’s the issue. Metro Council can deny ODOT’s project’s funding being added to the MTIP.

And many of the bicycle projects in the region have been paid for through the money Metro does control, just so that’s clear. Trails, Greenways…lots of local bicycle improvements are funded through Metro’s Regional Flexible Funds.

Jim Labbe
Jim Labbe
7 months ago

Be warned. If you raise concerns about the number of freeway lanes in this project as I did at a recent IBRP event the staff will often respond by saying “this is a multimodal project” as if that is a relevant response. It is not a question of whether or not the proposal is multimodal. It absolutely will be. The problem is that current proposals so favors one mode: single occupant vehicles (SOVs). If we expand the bridge to 10-12 lanes we are expanding capacity disproportionately for SOVs relative to transit and bike and pedestrians or to the other obvious solution: more mix-used development and related investments in Clark County that will reduce the job-housing imbalances in the region. Expanding the freeway and capacity for SOVs so dramatically will have system-wide impacts that will make the transportation system more dependent on SOVs and drive future lop-sided investments that will favor SOVs over the alternatives, especially as new bottlenecks just shift to new segments of the freeway and connected street system. The present course will increase the opportunity costs of not investing in all the needed alternatives only to temporarily make driving cheaper and easier. It will increase bike and pedestrian connectivity but will almost certainly lead to a decrease in the mode share for bike and pedestrians for at least the mid-term and make it harder to shift away from SOVs in the future. So when IBRP staff try to minimize concerns about lanes by saying “don’t worry this the project will be multi-modal,” it is important not to get confused about the real threat of this project if, as all indications suggest, it leads to a massive freeway expansion, not a mere replacement of the existing bridge.

Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley
6 months ago

Looks like more money has been and will be spent on planning the project than the project will cost! Keep on planning, at least until The Big One ends it forever!

BreadBoi
6 months ago

I sent in a comment!