ODOT’s Supplemental Environmental Analysis shows it has no plans for doing anything on its vaunted freeway covers
It left the description of cover’s post-construction use as “XXX facilities” in the final, official Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
The report makes it clear that “restorative justice” is still just a vapid slogan at the Oregon Department of Transportation.
In theory, the Oregon Department of Transportation is proposing to spend $1.45 billion on freeway covers to somehow repair the damage it did when highways it built largely destroyed the Albina neighborhood in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
ODOT has invested considerable resources in creating the fiction that highway covers will the the ideal environment for new development. Never mind the agency isn’t planning to contribute a dime toward building anything on said covers, even though its highways directly destroyed hundreds of neighborhood homes, which it never replaced.
It should be clear to anyone watching that talk of developing the covers is purely a woke-washing ploy: The agency’s real agenda is a wider highway. Last year, it sent a typo-ridden mailer to thousands of North and Northeast Portland households featuring a purely fictional “Workforce Development Center” built by African-American Artisans–which doesn’t exist and isn’t a part of the project at all. Other planning documents have illustrated imaginary housing that might be built (if somebody other than ODOT pays for it). There’s abundant evidence that, beyond fictional illustrations, OregonDOT doesn’t really care about the covers or what happens on them. It’s designed a roadway so wide that on most of the covers, it will be impossible to building anything other than a “lightweight” building, no more than three-stories tall. And, as noted, somebody else will have to pay for those buildings.
The latest bit of evidence of ODOT’s profound indifference is in its recently published “Supplemental Environmental Assessment.” Turn to the “Right of Way” report that is one of the project’s attachments. This is an extremely detailed document which lists every square foot of property that will be acquired for the project (or which will have even a temporary easement associated with construction). At the very end of the document (page 26 of 28-pages) , ODOT speaks to what will happen on those very expensive covers it develops.
This public review document has a highlighted section which somebody forgot to finish editing that explained what ODOT would do “as an interim measure” when the project is completed. Whatever these “xxx facilities” are, we can only guess, but it’s apparent that even after years of touting the covers, ODOT has no idea, and certainly no plans to do anything meaningful on the highway covers. Keep in mind: This is the official Supplemental Environmental Assessment, not some working draft.
The preceding paragraph of the section quoted above makes it clear that ODOT has no intention to develop this property, and it is not going to be a picnic for anyone else, either. ODOT would continue to own the cover, and would insist on some vaguely described air rights and lease agreements. It also makes it clear that some additional regulatory processes, including further review under the National Environmental Policy Act would likely apply as well. Developing this property will be vastly more expensive and complex than developing property elsewhere in the neighborhood.
In short, ODOT has no plans to construct covers that will support significant buildings, no plans for any meaningful use of the covers after the highway is complete, and no funding for it (or anyone else) to develop anything on the highway covers. And if somebody else does have an idea, they’ll have to pursue it with their own money, and they’d better bring lots of lawyers, because it’s not going to be easy. In the meantime, Albina, enjoy your “XXX facilities”—we’re sure they’ll be special.