What’s really going on with the controversial I-5 Rose Quarter project?
At a meeting of a high-powered Metro policy committee yesterday, the Oregon Department of Transportation was put in the hot seat over their plans to widen Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter. Peppered with questions from Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, the regional director of ODOT Rian Windsheimer, was forced to came to the aid of an ODOT staff member who was presenting on the project.
Windsheimer’s move demonstrated that sharp criticisms from a gathering storm of activists are gaining strength from elected leaders like Stacey, testing ODOT’s nerves and putting the agency on the defensive. The meeting also made it clear that, while initially sold by ODOT to the public and politicians as a “bottleneck elimination” project, the agency is now reluctant to claim it will lead to any capacity increase.
The initial draft of Oregon’s just-passed transportation bill was an audacious money-grab from misguided politicians and the freeway advocates that fuel them. Thankfully, the final version that Governor Kate Brown signed into law today in Portland dramatically scaled-back our investment in urban freeway widening projects; but not completely.
One of the winners in the bill was a project that will expand Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter — right through the heart of Portland’s central city. And with City Council poised for a vote to add the project into Portland’s Transportation System Plan on September 7th, activists are laying the groundwork for another freeway fight.
After a long pause to gather its strategy and thoughts, Portland’s city council is expected to launch its latest plan Wednesday to raise money for the city’s streets.
The new concept, a public vote for a temporary local gas tax of 10 cents per gallon, comes endorsed by a 93-page report from the City Club of Portland and at least two mayoral candidates (Jules Bailey and Ted Wheeler) as the least bad way to slow the city’s deepening pavement problem while getting some high-priority safety improvements on the ground.
And in a new development, it looks as if some resources have been found for one of such a ballot issue’s biggest needs: an organized “yes” campaign.