City of Portland raises big questions about the I-5 Rose Quarter freeway widening project (translated).
Last month was the deadline for comments on the supplemental environmental analysis for the proposed $1.45 billion I-5 Rose Quarter freeway widening project.
Our friends at Bike Portland got a copy of the city’s comment letter, signed by then Portland Bureau of Transportation director Chris Warner (who’s since moved on to a position in the Oregon Governor’s office).
At City Observatory, we’ve documented the myriad problems with the project, including increasing pollution, worsening safety, failing to solve congestion, and further undermining neighborhood livability. The City of Portland’s official comment letter echoes many of these concerns, but in a stilted bureaucratic dialect that may not be intelligible to all readers. As a public service, City Observatory offers its translation; City of Portland comments are shown in quotes, our accompanying translation is in italics.
Translation: ODOT has designed the freeway for a 70 mph design speed, and prioritizes car movements over local use; this will block the city’s plans to make the area safe for people biking and walking, and attractive for development.<
The letter signals some real concerns with the already troubled I-5 Rose Quarter Freeway widening project. Unfortunately, the subtext of the letter leaves it open to the interpretation that these are minor tweaks the be addressed later in design. That’s far from the case: the problems (the width of the freeway, its dangerous hairpin off-ramps, questionably buildable covers, and traffic inducing size, and hazards to those traveling by bike and on foot are baked into the current design. The only meaningful way to address these significant impacts is through a full environmental impact statement, something ODOT is desperately trying to avoid by seeking a “finding of no significant impact,” a claim that’s impossible to square the the facts laid out in the city’s letter.