Despite a majority of Metro Council expressing concerns about the future of a nearly $800 million project that will expand the I-5 freeway through the Rose Quarter, only two out of seven members voted against giving the Oregon Department of Transportation $129 million to continue working on it.
The 5-2 vote came at a meeting just hours after the Oregon Transportation Commission gave ODOT permission to move forward with the project without the rigorous environmental analysis called for by hundreds of Portlanders, many organizations and key local elected officials including Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. On the Metro Council agenda was a resolution to greenlight funding that allows ODOT to do two things: Purchase “right-of-way” parcels in the Rose Quarter where they’ll stage future construction equipment; and continue to pay expenses related to project development, outreach and preliminary engineering, and so on. (It’s the same funding passed by a Metro advisory committee last week.
“Right now we have a second-class transportation system for folks that have accessibility issues and it just plain isn’t fair.”
— Adrian Pearmine, DKS Associates.
Seniors and people living with a disability who need accessible transportation across the Portland region have dealt with a patchwork of inadequate services for years.
A new initiative called Mobility for All hopes to change that by creating a one-call, one-click regional transportation information system.
Today, many communities in the Portland Metro do not have accessible or frequent transit, requiring residents with special needs to reserve rides days in advance in order to get around. Service varies significantly in rural communities, and getting across the region through multiple service providers can be daunting. One of those options, TriMet’s privately operated LIFT paratransit service, was recently under fire at a Workers Rights Board hearing in May for inadequate scheduling systems and long wait times for riders among other complaints from employees and community members.
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.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)
Bike Walk Vote, the political arm of Portland’s transportation reform movement, wants to get you some face time with this year’s city council, county commission and Metro council candidates.
Stacey — who has become a favorite of many bike advocates in Portland for his positions on transportation issues — says he made the decision because it is clear to him that he wouldn’t win a majority of Metro Council votes and that former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts looks to be a shoe-in. Not wanting to “waste the time” of his supporters, Stacey says he’ll bow out of this race to focus all efforts on the May 2012 Metro election.