Get a sneak peek at ODOT’s latest designs for I-5 Rose Quarter project

A revised environmental assessment (EA) for the I-5 Rose Quarter project is due to be released next week. And based on an early look from activists with No More Freeways — who received a copy of the plans through a public records request — the project’s surface street design proposals are likely to raise many eyebrows.

This new EA is part of the project’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process that the Oregon Department of Transportation must go through in order to get federal approval. To refresh your memory, the Federal Highway Administration rescinded their “finding of no significant impact” for the project back in January. This was in large part due to the addition of a major project element — the highway cover — that was added to the plans through a major compromise brokered by Oregon Governor Kate Brown. The new “Hybrid 3” concept gave ODOT an opportunity to refine their plans for how the freeway elements of the project connect to the surface streets.

No More Freeways co-founder Joe Cortright tells BikePortland the EA gives us our first look at several changes that, “make things worse for bikes and pedestrians in many ways.”

Initial proposal on the left, the “Hybrid 3” proposal on the right. (View shows NE Weidler at the top. Freeway lanes are light grey. Ramps and surface streets are black.) Source: ODOT

ODOT plan drawings show the southbound I-5 off-ramp making a u-turn and exiting directly onto N Williams Ave (above right). This new off-ramp would add to an already dangerous intersection that includes the southbound I-5 on-ramp from NE Wheeler Ave and Ramsay Way. It’s worth noting that N Williams is one of the busiest cycling corridors in the city and riders will now have to cross over two freeway ramps back-to-back. This seems like it would also make for perilous conditions for people walking back onto surface streets after large events at the nearby Moda Center and Memorial Coliseum venues.

The new proposed design would keep the existing I-5 southbound on-ramp at Ramsay (instead of from Weidler, like in the “before” image above left). The bike lane on Williams between Ramsay and Weidler be moved all the way to the right side of the street. This means northbound bicycle traffic on Williams will face two right-turn lanes at Weidler. Thankfully the plans call for a bike lane signal phase, but crossing in front of two right turn lanes is always stressful.

On a related note, on the east side of I-5, ODOT plans to add another right turn lane to the NE Weidler off-ramp. This means eastbound bicycle traffic on Weidler (which is the new route for the Green Loop) will cross over two turn lanes instead of one.

In addition to these surface street concerns, Cortright worries moving this off-ramp just creates more out-of-direction travel for car and truck drivers, and ultimately creates more opportunities for conflicts with other users due to additional turns required to access surface street routes. This is most clearly evident in the route drivers would take to reach the Moda Center parking facility. From the plans, it appears drivers using the southbound I-5 ramp would then go north on Williams, drive two blocks to Broadway then go west to Vancouver to take another left to reach the parking garage.

Drawings in the new EA also make it official that the Clackamas Overcrossing — a carfree bridge that would have gone between Clackamas Street in the Lloyd Center with Ramsay Way near Moda Center — is no longer on the table. (Note that many bike advocates felt it was nothing more than a greenwashing effort to begin with and there isn’t cycling demand at that alignment).

Cortright says No More Freeways has found shaved corners with wider turn radii at over a dozen locations and the closure of two crosswalks (“which ironically connect to the widely-ballyhooed covers” he points out).

The public comment period on the new EA will begin November 15th through January 4th (2023). There will also be a virtual public hearing on December 14th. Save these dates if you want to influence this project.

Another opportunity will come as staff from ODOT and PBOT share a presentation about this project at tomorrow’s (Tuesday, 11/8) PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting.


Below is a PDF of the full plan drawing obtained by No More Freeways through an ODOT public records request:

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blumdrew
blumdrew
1 month ago

This project is shaping up to functionally destroy all north/south connectivity near it. The relocation of the off-ramp is just terrible for anyone hoping to go north/south from the Esplanade to N. Williams. It’s worth noting that the stated reasoning for moving the off-ramp is to remove car traffic from the cover – which is to say they are moving the traffic to the already active and well used bike/ped routes.

I think it’s also worth noting that the triangular block between Williams, Weidler, and Wheeler is an affordable housing complex (Madrona Studios). Re-locating a freeway off-ramp to be next to an affordable housing development is pretty un-equitable no matter what way ODOT tries to slice it.

It’s also interesting to note that previous iterations of the Rose Quarter Project had a bike/ped connection linking Hancock and Dixon. Removing that is just another step in the wrong direction for the project – even if it was dubiously useful, it would have been better than nothing.

Betsy Reese
Betsy Reese
1 month ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Originally presented by ODOT as a facility for bikes, Hancock-Dixon St. was, in fact, an auto thoroughfare with painted bike lanes at a 10% grade that was acknowledged by ODOT a few years ago as likely being so unappealing to and unused by cyclists that they stopped even indicating it on the maps they used in presenting active transportation infrastructure upgrades.

It is disingenuous for ODOT to now state that a bike connection has been lost there.

Betsy Reese
Betsy Reese
29 days ago
Reply to  Betsy Reese

Albina Vision Trust’s design, in general for the overall neighborhood, and specifically for the Albina One affordable housing project to be built on our Paramount Parking parcel, does not eliminate bike connections, it creates them. The steep Hancock-Dixon Street never was a usable bike or pedestrian connection. In fact, its elimination results in retaining Flint Ave., a key north-south bike connection to Broadway, which had been slated by ODOT to be removed and replaced by the Hancock-Dixon connection.

FDUP
FDUP
28 days ago
Reply to  Betsy Reese

Retaining the Flint Ave crossing is the sole positive element of this proposed plan.

Ben
Ben
1 month ago

We need to make sure any projects that involve adding highway lanes are politically impossible within Portland. I very much hope this doesn’t happen.

Nick
Nick
28 days ago
Reply to  Ben

Pretty much every time I see some article about the freeway expansion it drives me to donate more to no the advocacy group “no more freeways pdx”: https://portlandtransport.com/freeway-fund

Aaron
1 month ago

Thanks for the coverage, Jonathan.

Also of note – what are these terrible plans on Williams/Broadway going to do for the Streetcar and the numerous frequent service bus routes that pass through the neighborhood? Sure looks like it’s going to slow down service, just like the 2019 EA plans proposed, which seems like an outrageous outcome for a $1.4 billion transportation project.

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
1 month ago

Well, it’s a good thing event-night Rose Quarter traffic doesn’t regularly block intersections and disregard actively used bike lanes when making turns into the parking structures. Oh, wait! That’s the worst possible time to be on a bike anywhere near there _right now_.

 
 
1 month ago

I don’t know how I feel about these changes. Compared to the previous design, it seems like this is functionally moving drivers from Vancouver to Williams, increasing stress on Williams but decreasing in on Vancouver. I’m curious to see the reasoning behind this.

Were protected bike lanes always a part of this project? I don’t remember them in previous renderings or articles, but I could be mistaken. If they are a new addition in this stage, then I would say that is well worth any other downsides.

squareman
squareman
1 month ago

Wow, this is just a giant middle finger to everyone who uses conveyance that is not allowed on the freeway. They are trying to kill us.

Fred
Fred
29 days ago
Reply to  squareman

Comment of the week!

How I wish the BILLION dollars ODOT is spending on this project would be used to create alt trans options. Next time they say there’s no funding for these options, remember the billion$ spent on these highway-widening projects.

pigs
pigs
1 month ago

Guess this is what racial restorative justice looks like according to Hardesty. I’m sure this project will truly reconnect the Albina neighborhood (all you have to do is cross the multiple freeway ramps and 5 approach lanes)

Serenity
Serenity
1 month ago
Reply to  pigs

I don’t think so, pigs.

Steven Smith
Steven Smith
1 month ago
soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven Smith

“Hybrid 3” came right from the Governor’s office:

The irony of this being that the “nomorefreeways” crew are fervent supporters of the democratic party machine, including Gov Brown and maybe soon Gov Kotek. For example, their social media is plastered with posts urging people to vote for Kotek even though Kotek was instrumental in the creation and funding of the I5 Rose Quarter project. Does it make any sense to fervently oppose a freeway project while supporting the person who helped create the project?

blumdrew
blumdrew
1 month ago
Reply to  soren

This is just not true – doing a search for “Kotek” on their twitter, every tweet I see is something along the lines of “Speaker Kotek, what will you do to reform ODOT as governor”.

I don’t know any of them personally, but as a freeway hating guy who lives in Portland I can recognize that the Democratic Party is maybe a little better than the Republican Party for cities, transportation, and the things I care about. I think it’s shameful that Kate Brown brokered the deal that has become this project, but I still prefer her to Christine Drazan by a country mile.

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  blumdrew

This is just not true

comment image

Other “founders” have similar language on their social media.

Evan
Evan
29 days ago
Reply to  soren

this is a silly objection, and I think you’re trying to make hay rather than make any real point about what could happen in the future depending on who occupies the governor’s office.

soren
soren
29 days ago
Reply to  Evan

I think you’re trying to make hay

With all due respect and in my opinion, the excessively cozy alignment between “nomorefreeways” and the democratic party machine is precisely why their organizing fixates on un-elected state employees instead of their bosses – the democratic leadership.

What would climate organizing look like if it were not governed by fear of the blue team losing?

Serenity
Serenity
29 days ago
Reply to  soren

Consider the opponents.

Fred
Fred
29 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Ultimately you can thank extremism on the right for the not-great Dem leaders we have now. If the Repubs would put forward some viable candidates we could vote for, then Dems would need to give a little. But they don’t b/c they know we can’t vote for their opponents.

Not having a viable opposition party hurts us all.

soren
soren
29 days ago
Reply to  Fred

The corporate-lackey democratic party takes progressives and leftists for granted. Until this cycle is broken, any kind of genuine progress is impossible.

pigs
pigs
29 days ago
Reply to  soren

One can still believe that and do harm reduction voting.

John
John
29 days ago
Reply to  pigs

Yeah, probably, and I probably will. But Soren is right that they have no incentive to do anything different. The “harm reduction voting” is what allows democrats to do exactly the same as republicans with a couple tokens tossed in to make them *just a bit better* so we feel like we’re doing harm reduction.
Sure, they’re better and I don’t want a republican. But I don’t know what the solution is, the democrats will never improve if they keep getting rewarded for their strategy.

Serenity
Serenity
29 days ago
Reply to  John

So… You have a plan for now?

Watts
Watts
29 days ago
Reply to  pigs

“Harm reduction” in the short term might mean voting for Democrats. But if you’re playing the long game, it might mean supporting less savory candidates today to get a better selection tomorrow.

[Note that I’ve already voted. Though I ultimately chose a candidate, I found the choice between Kotek, Drazan, and Johnson to be a terrible one. I think they’d all be awful in their own way, and I have pretty low expectations for all of them.]

Concordia Cyclist
Concordia Cyclist
29 days ago
Reply to  soren

True, but the GOP’s lurch towards authoritarianism leaves us with little choice in a two-party system.

Watts
Watts
29 days ago

In statewide elections, at least, vote for candidates, not parties, and especially not the national manifestations of parties.

maccoinnich
29 days ago
Reply to  soren

The next Governor of Oregon will be either Tina Kotek or Christine Drazan. Are you indifferent to the outcome here?

soren
soren
29 days ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

I’m not registered to vote so, yes, I am feeling indifference towards this undemocratic electoral system. I am, however, livid about the democratic party’s indifference towards poverty, debt peonage, wealth inequality, corporate consolidation of power, the climate crisis, and the biodiversity crisis.

FDUP
FDUP
29 days ago
Reply to  soren

Not registered and not voting = no right to complain.

Serenity
Serenity
29 days ago
Reply to  soren

What would you recommend?

soren
soren
29 days ago
Reply to  Serenity

Spoiler and/or insurgent candidates and the credible threat of the hollowing out of the democratic coalition. Until there is a credible leftist “bread and butter” coalition, the democratic elite will have little incentive to compromise and the faux populism of the rethugs will continue to attract socially-conservative working class people.

Serenity
Serenity
29 days ago
Reply to  soren

But what about right now?

soren
soren
29 days ago
Reply to  Serenity

I could never vote for Kotek because she and a P:NW board member are the reason that it’s legal for land-lords of older buildings to increase rents by 15% and legal for land-lords of newer building to increase rents by any amount they damn well please. Kotek also cut union pensions and sabotaged the $15 minimum wage campaign. With democrats like these I’m happy to not vote for either “lesser” evil.

FDUP
FDUP
29 days ago
Reply to  soren

Okey dokey, then, you get whatever you get. Again, no right to complain if you are an active non-participant. Only pass is if you are actually out in the streets actively protesting in a meaningful way.

But anyone that thinks or says that Kotek is the same as Trump and his cronies has their heads up their tuchus.

soren
soren
29 days ago
Reply to  FDUP

Only pass is if you are actually out in the streets actively protesting in a meaningful way.

I’ve been fighting constructive eviction in the streets but since this primarily helps poor people I’m not sure it would be considered meaningful by the party of the rich.

dw
dw
1 month ago

Look, I know this will make it much more difficult to walk, bike, and use transit in the area, but look at the bright side. When folks come down from Battle Ground, WA* 3 times a year to go to events at the Moda Center, they’ll save at least 30 seconds getting from the parking garage to the freeway when they’re tired and cranky after the show/game.

*People in Battleground and every other exurban/rural area deserve good, frequent transit options so they can have as many $9 Coors as they want at Blazers games and not have to drive home.

maxD
maxD
29 days ago

Those ramps are massive! 2 lane ramps support high speeds and aggressive driving. I wish we could limit the ramps and turn lanes to single lanes.

I really appreciate this article highlighting the exteranl costs of this project. Those large radius corners, double turn lanes and overall high volume, high speed design will create a brutal environment for people walking or biking through here. The MODA netter is already a dangerous no-go zone for many people who would otherwise bike and effectively cuts off North Portland form most of the rest of the CIty- this will make things much worse. For all of ODOOTS calims about needing to move people through the CIty on I-5, this reveals how far into Portland they are planning to extend things: I hope the City can push back on this and fight for single lane, slower ramps. People should be coming into the City at 20-25 MPH. These should 90-degree turns, not swooping ramps. Let cars cue up, it is OK if it backs up on to the freeway because ODOT is building these super long Auxiallary lanes are not supposed to be through lanes- let them store traffic while they wait to exit. Keep the speed in I-5 at 50, or lower it 35- this is supposed to be safety project, right?

Chris I
Chris I
29 days ago

That southbound ramp configuration is going to lead to fatal crashes. It’s entirely possible that the new design will be more dangerous than the existing one.

Dozens of crashes at a similar ramp design in Seattle:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlV0WhZorxQ&t=20s

EP
EP
29 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

That video was the first thing I thought of when I saw that new off-ramp diagram. That outer wall/guardrail is going to be full of scrapes and gouges from WA pickups in no time.

FDUP
FDUP
29 days ago

There should not be any highway on or off ramps anywhere within city limits. And real ‘radical restorative justice’ would involve completely removing the highway, not these shenanigans.

Watts
Watts
29 days ago
Reply to  FDUP

No highways means more driving on surface streets, where I ride my bike. Not sure I like the sound of that. And just who do you think would be the primary beneficiary from your idea of “radical restorative justice”? You can’t always rewind the clock.

FDUP
FDUP
29 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Vancouver BC did not let the highways into their central city and they are way better off for that decision. European cities have freeways, but they are by and large underground with very limited opportunities to transfer to the city street grid w/in city limits and no one there seems to mind. USA made some bad mistakes regarding highway routing in the 1950s-80s but it is not too late to correct them.

Watts
Watts
28 days ago
Reply to  FDUP

If removing/rerouting highways would reduce urban traffic and pollution without serious negative consequences, I’d support it.

Geoff Grummon-Beale
Geoff Grummon-Beale
29 days ago

This new configuration is appalling and will dramatically decrease safety for bicyclists on Williams. The new offramp is clearly designed to move as many vehicles through at the highest possible rate of speed. As an analog to this design, consider the intersection of Harbor Drive and Naito, where vehicles coming off of I-5 frequently are speeding and ignore the “no right turn on red”. Personally, I have witnessed 4 close calls or crashes between bikes and cars at that intersection.

To make matters worse, in the afternoon cars are often backed up from Wheeler onto the I-5 southbound ramp. This design doubles the potential for bicyclists having to negotiate cars stopped in the middle of the intersection.

maxD
maxD
29 days ago

I work near the Harbor Drive/Montgomery intersection and I amastounded that Harbor Drive exists in Portland! It is at the foot of downtown, but it is completely lacking in any safety features. It basically cuts off downtown /PSU from the river. It has no sidewalks and minimal crossings. The speed limit is ridiculously high (45, I think) but nearly every car exceeds that. If PBOT had any concern or commitment to safety or quality of life, Harbor Drive would get a road diet, a speed reduction and some sidewalks at a minimum!

FDUP
FDUP
29 days ago
Reply to  maxD

Harbor Drive is basically an extended highway off ramp, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was at least partially if not totally under ODOT’s control. And if PBOT is responsible, shame on them!

Alex
Alex
29 days ago

While this design contains significant revisions that are certainly newsworthy, it seems like valuable context to note that this draft is 6 months old, and was responded to in July by PBOT staff with many of the same concerns that Joe Cortright mentions. If you download the PDF and view the comments, for example, a user called GELLER (who could that be?) notes at the Williams & Broadway intersection that, “City’s starting point was all intersection legs to have crosswalks. If there were dual turn lanes, then they’d require protected phasing.” I’m not sure who exactly gets final say over the street-level design, but I believe Oregon has some form of municipal consent, so it seems likely that the details of these designs will change significantly, if they haven’t already.

FDUP
FDUP
29 days ago
Reply to  Alex

Let’s hope so!

Zachary
Zachary
29 days ago

If our concern is maybe/maybe not maintaining walk/bike/transit use, then discuss we must these changes. If our concern is fundamentally changing the walk/bike/transit landscape so current non-users would consider changing their mode of transportation, then this should be rejected out of hand. No non-walk/bike/transit users would navigate that mess.

In other words: when this is the discussion, the Overton Window is squarely shifted in favor of highway expansion.