Transportation commission says I-5 Rose Quarter project can move ahead without environmental statement

The oversight body for the Oregon Department of Transportation has given the agency permission to move forward on their $715 million I-5 Rose Quarter project without doing more rigorous and independent analysis of its environmental and community impacts.

In a 5-0 vote taken on a meeting held over the phone today, Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Robert Van Brocklin said he was satisfied with steps taken by ODOT thus far and that, “I just don’t find the basis in the record to change to an EIS [Environmental Impact Statement].”

At issue was whether ODOT should be required to perform an EIS or stick with their already completed Environmental Assessment. Both processes are part of the US Federal Highway Administration National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). ODOT completed an EA last February, a step required to determine whether or not a project will have significant impacts.

With their vote today, the OTC has swept aside serious concerns and calls for an EIS by many regional elected leaders and organizations, and thousands of Portlanders who oppose the project. In the past two weeks alone, the group No More Freeways says over 350 people submitted public comment calling for an EIS. Last spring a comment period led to over 2,000 public omments, 89% of which were in opposition to the project.

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State commission close to making pick for ODOT director

The Oregon Transportation Commission just announced a special meeting that will take place on Wednesday where they are likely to choose a new leader of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

ODOT’s longtime director Matt Garrett announced his resignation back in January and left the agency in June. An OTC search committee has been meeting since March to choose his successor.

The Willamette Week reported in late August that three finalists have been chosen. On the short list are Contra Costa Transportation Authority Director Randell Iwasaki, New Hampshire Department of Transportation Director Victoria Sheehan, and current ODOT Highway Department Manager Kris Strickler.

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