The Oregon Transportation Commission deferred action on the environmental path for the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project on Tuesday and told ODOT to continue studying tolling in the Portland area.
Commissioners, meeting in Lebanon for their last 2019 meeting, decided to delay further action on the I-5 Rose Quarter Project to consider public, local and statewide stakeholder input and to define the immediate next steps for ODOT. Commissioners plan to meet in January to consider the next steps.
“We agree with Gov. Brown that the project would benefit from completing additional work and continuing dialogue with our governmental and community partners,” said Robert Van Brocklin, the commission chair, after the meeting. “In the coming weeks, we intend to direct the department to take further action prior to deciding the environmental review pathway. Our decision to wait to discuss this matter to a meeting early in 2020, reflects the commission’s desire to carefully consider the input we heard today from the public and from our elected leaders. We want to make the best decision possible for the community and the state.”
The Oregon Legislature authorized both the Rose Quarter and tolling projects in HB 2017, known as Keep Oregon Moving, to ease congestion and improve safety. ODOT’s 2018 Traffic Performance Report, found congestion on the region’s freeways increased 13% between 2015 and 2017, while daily vehicle hours of delay increased by 20%.
As a result, congestion is having increasing economic impacts, including on businesses across Oregon who rely on Portland’s freeways to deliver goods from our state’s farms, forest and industries.
Commissioners heard public comments Tuesday from 13 people who support and oppose the Rose Quarter Project’s environmental path.
“We need to have discussions with a lot of interested parties”,” Van Brocklin said during the meeting. “I’m not talking about a long delay here. I don’t think it serves the project to go on indefinitely.”
Future work will include partnership and collaborative decision-making among the Federal Highway Administration, ODOT, City of Portland, Metro, Multnomah County, Portland Public Schools and community partners. After the environmental process is complete the project can advance to the design phase and then construction.
The project will add auxiliary lanes and safety shoulders on the highway between I-84 and I-405 where three interstates intersect and create what is now the biggest traffic bottleneck in Oregon. It would also allow Portland to implement development goals and realize the city’s Central City 2035 Plan.
Projected benefits include:
- A reduction of crashes by up to 50%.
- A savings of nearly 2.5 million hours of vehicle and freight delay each and year.
- A catalyst for near-term job creation and future redevelopment of the central city area.
- Increased hiring and economic opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses through a diverse workforce program.
The project also would improve community connections by redesigning overpasses and reconnecting neighborhood streets, seismically upgrading overpasses, enhancing public spaces, providing new bicycle and pedestrian routes and promoting economic development opportunities.
In HB 2017, the Oregon Legislature authorized $30 million a year in bond payments to pay for ODOT’s share of the project. The bond payments won’t become available until 2022.
ODOT will submit a cost-to-complete report to the Legislature in February 2020 as required by House Bill 2017.
Learn more about the project at i5rosequarter.org