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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.