I-5 Rose Quarter Project

Touting list of benefits, ODOT releases I-5 Rose Quarter project environmental assessment

by on February 15th, 2019 at 8:54 am

As expected, the Oregon Department of Transportation released the Environmental Assessment for the I-5 Rose Quarter Project today. Now the clock starts ticking on the 45-day comment period.
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In surprise change, ODOT will extend I-5 Rose Quarter comment period to 45 days

by on February 5th, 2019 at 10:41 am

I-5 with Harriet Tubman Middle School in the background.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation announced this morning they’ll extend the public comment period on the Environmental Assessment (EA) of their I-5 Rose Quarter Project. The EA will be released February 15th.

The announcement comes a surprise. Less than a month ago ODOT said 30 days would be enough and the agency formally declined requests from the No More Freeways Coalition and Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly to extend it to 60 days.

In a January 11th letter to the coalition (PDF), ODOT Major Projects Manager Megan Channell, wrote,

“Given the range of opportunities that will be provided for the public to engage in the project and the environmental findings, we do not plan to extend the 30-day public comment period at this time. This is consistent with federal standards for an Environmental Assessment public review [*Which is why advocacy groups felt a more rigorous Environmental Impact Statement should have been conducted]. We plan to publish the EA and start the public comment period to allow the interested readers to first see and review the information and then assess the time needed for review. Once the comment period begins, we will consider if an extension is necessary based on feedback received after publication of the document.”

The 30-day comment period was also referenced by Commissioner Eudaly in her January 23rd blog post on the topic. “We are prioritizing public engagement because this project is one of the most significant transportation efforts in recent years,” she wrote. “I want to ensure that this project reflects our values, particularly our commitment to equity, sustainability, and safety.” According to Eudaly’s Chief of Staff Marshall Runkel, the Commissioner met with Windsheimer and other ODOT officials in early January.

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Instead of a longer comment period, ODOT touted the outreach they’d already done on the project and said they’d push back the release date of the EA to allow community groups to organize. They also agreed to host a public hearing on March 12th (something Eudaly’s office specifically requested).

This morning ODOT changed course and announced the EA will have a 45-day public comment period. “The additional 15 days will allow more time for the community to consider and provide meaningful comments on the environmental findings,” reads the statement.

An extra 15 days is just half of what Eudaly and the No More Freeways Coalition requested. And ODOT was already under pressure from the Audubon Society of Portland and OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon for doing an Environmental Assessment on this mega-project instead of the more rigorous analysis required under an Environmental Impact Statement.

In an email to BikePortland this morning, Aaron Brown from No More Freeways wrote, “In November, dozens of community groups joined us in asking ODOT for a two month extension to the public comment period. ODOT instead granted only two weeks, and only after ceding to political pressure from civic leaders. Given the catastrophic increase of neighborhood air pollution and regional carbon emissions that this project entails, it is crucially important that the community be given a meaningful opportunity to speak out about the concerns of ODOT’s freeway widening proposal.”

Asked for comment this morning, Runkel from Commissioner Eudaly’s office said, “The commissioner recognizes that it is unlikely that the community will reach consensus about the project, but is committed to a full and fair public process to consider it.”

Upcoming opportunities for feedback include a drop-in open house on March 7th (5:30 to 8:00 pm at Leftbank Annex), a public hearing on March 12th (4:30 to 6:00 pm at Oregon Convention Center), and an online open house which will begin February 15th (the EA release date) and run through April 1st.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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No More Freeways coalition requests more time for feedback on environmental impacts of I-5 expansion

by on November 28th, 2018 at 12:43 pm

The proposed elements of the I-5 Rose Quarter project. Yellow lines are new freeway lanes.

A coalition with concerns over the State of Oregon’s planned $450 million expansion of Interstate 5 through Portland’s Rose Quarter have requested more time to consider the project’s environmental impacts.
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Watch how ODOT’s Rose Quarter freeway project will expand right into Harriet Tubman Middle School

by on August 13th, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Still from video created by Cupola Media> shows how ODOT’s new freeway lane would encroach even further into the neighborhood it destroyed when it was first built in the 1970s. That’s Harriet Tubman Middle School on the right.

The Oregon Department of Transportation and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler have justified the I-5 Rose Quarter freeway project as a way to “restore” the traditionally African-American neighborhood that the freeway runs through.

But a new animated video released today by the No More Freeways coalition shows that a wider freeway will not only encroach further into that neighborhood, it will bring toxic fumes from cars and diesel trucks even closer to students and staff at Harriet Tubman Middle School.
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ODOT on defensive about I-5 Rose Quarter project at Metro meeting

by on July 20th, 2018 at 11:38 am

ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer at Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) meeting yesterday.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

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.
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Editorial: Freeways, the future, and Mayor Ted Wheeler

by on April 27th, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Mayor Ted Wheeler supports an ODOT megaproject that invests hundreds of million of dollars in more of this.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

When it comes to transportation, recent statements from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler paint a confusing picture of the future.

On one hand, Wheeler seems to understand the urgency of climate change. On the other hand, he supports the I-5 Rose Quarter project that adds lanes to a freeway to improve driving conditions in our central city.

On one hand, he understands that the future of transportation is in flux. On the other hand, he supports single-occupancy vehicle use — a form of urban transportation whose time has long since passed.

Confused or simply wrong, Wheeler — someone who is ostensibly a progressive — is on the wrong side of this issue.
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Audubon Society and OPAL file FOIA request on I-5 Rose Quarter project

by on March 23rd, 2018 at 4:12 pm

I-5 through the Rose Quarter as seen from the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
(Photo: Emily Guise)

The Audubon Society of Portland and OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon want to make sure the Oregon Department of Transportation doesn’t short-change the environment as they plan to add and expand lanes on Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was formally made today by the Crag Law Center on behalf of both organizations.

According to the letter, Audubon Society and OPAL want to see, “all documents relating to the question of whether FHWA [Federal Highway Administration] and ODOT intend to prepare initially an environmental assessment (“EA”) as opposed to a more thorough environmental impact statement (“EIS”) for the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project. Documents subject to this request include, without limitation, electronic mail, text messages, web-based content, all writings, letters, memoranda, notes wherever they are found, summaries, working papers, schedules, draft documents, correspondence, documentation of meetings, minutes from meetings, data, graphs, charts, photos, and/or maps.”
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Guest post: Candidly, TriMet (part one)

by on March 21st, 2018 at 2:31 pm

This two-part article is by Aaron Brown, founder of No More Freeways PDX and former board president of Oregon Walks.
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Council hears concerns about I-5 expansion impacts on Tubman Middle School

by on January 19th, 2018 at 1:31 pm

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s plan to expand the width of I-5 through the Rose Quarter got a fresh dose of criticism at a Portland City Council hearing yesterday.

The project was on the agenda as part of a slew of Comprehensive Plan amendments and people concerned about the project didn’t waste the opportunity to tell Mayor Ted Wheeler and city commissioners that they feel it’s not the right thing to do.

One piece of testimony that was particularly noteworthy came from Portland Public School Board member Paul Anthony. He raised several questions about the project’s impact on Harriet Tubman Middle School. The school will be re-opened this fall and it sits just yards away from where new lanes will be added if and when the project is built (see photo). ODOT has already come under scrutiny for how this project will impact air quality around Tubman.

In a phone interview today, agency spokesman Don Hamilton said they’re used to working with adjacent property owners.

I’ll share Anthony’s testimony and then Hamilton’s response.
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Community rallies against ODOT’s plans to tear down Flint Ave bridge

by on January 16th, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Veteran activist Ron Buel works the crowd on Flint Avenue this morning.
(Photo: Emily Guise)

They offered free coffee and donuts, and some bad news: The bridge they were giving it out on will be removed if the Oregon Department of Transportation ever breaks ground on their $450 million I-5 Rose Quarter project.

Volunteers from the No More Freeways coalition and Bike Loud PDX hosted the event with an aim to educate people about the project and add signatures to a petition they plan to deliver to Portland City Council this Thursday.

I was there for just a few minutes and was surprised to be greeted by Jim Howell and Ron Buel, two veterans of Portland’s past freeway fights. They were both eager to show me a strip of grassy hillside adjacent to the current I-5 freeway that separates thousands of polluting cars from students at Harriet Tubman Middle School. “That’s where ODOT wants to put the new lanes,” Buel said.
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