Beyond freeway expansion, here’s how local streets would change with I-5 Rose Quarter project

A visual summary by ODOT of the surface-street changes proposed in the I-5 Rose Quarter Project.
(Images: ODOT and Google Street View)

When they explain their support for spending hundreds of millions to add two new on/off freeway lanes and freeway shoulders to Interstate 5 at the Rose Quarter, Portland city leaders have a go-to answer: better surface streets.

It’s true, Mayor Ted Wheeler conceded last month, that more freeway throughput at this interchange would do “very little to arrest congestion.” Instead, more driving is likely to fill any new space that might open up on the freeway, ultimately leaving cars and trucks as jammed as before (though possibly elsewhere on the road system).

But from Portland’s perspective, Wheeler said, the $450 million Rose Quarter project is “mostly a bicycle and pedestrian play.”

OK. So we wanted to know what, exactly, are taxpayers getting in this location that would improve biking and walking?

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‘Albina Vision’ would restore historic Rose Quarter neighborhood, put biking and walking first

Aerial view of Albina Vision looking south (scroll down for more detailed view).
Rukaiyah Adams sharing the Albina Vision on Friday at the plaza in front of Memorial Coliseum.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

In the early 1950s, the Rose Quarter was a neighborhood of homes, churches and stores. It was a thriving part of our city where many people lived and worked. But by 1958 all the houses were razed to make way for the Memorial Coliseum and eventually the Moda Center. Within the same decade hundreds more homes would see the same fate as city planners gave Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Interstate 5 priority over housing and businesses. These “urban renewal” projects in the Albina corridor had a devastating impact to the community and many of the scars — on human lives and infrastructure — remain unhealed.

A bold new plan unveiled for the first time on Friday seeks to restore that neighborhood — and ideally, the community that went along with it. The “Albina Vision” would develop the 30-acre Rose Quarter with housing and businesses that respects history and embraces the future.

On Friday two of the project’s main backers — Rukaiyah Adams, chief investment officer with the Meyer Memorial Trust and Zari Santner, a former Portland Parks Bureau director — laid out their vision to a crowd of about 70 electeds, planners, advocates and government staffers during a stop on the annual Policymakers Ride.

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