UPDATE: AROW joined the neighborhoods in voting NO to the freeway widening proposal. The proposal still passed but will be up for future votes within the SAC and at City Council. Further coverage:
- We’re Planning to Spend $400 Million to Widen a Freeway Through the Rose Quarter
- $400 million plan to cap Interstate 5, connect Rose Quarter and Lloyd District moves forward
- City, ODOT reveal $400 million freeway expansion plans near Rose Quarter
The I-5/Rose Quarter highway expansion project presents a crossroads for Portland and the entire region. Much as the CRC is problematic, this project would further entrench our city in a piece of infrastructure destined for obsolescence.
Demolishing three good bridge structures to add one lane in each direction–while possibly receiving a few bike/ped improvements in the process–is absurd.
While there are certainly safety improvements worth making, ODOT itself admits that freeways are essentially their safest form of infrastructure in this 2009 report:
The number of crashes per million vehicle miles traveled on non-freeways for 2009 was 1.22. This is more than three times higher than the interstatefreeway crash rate of 0.38, and twice as high as the crash rate of 0.61 for other freeways and expressways. The difference between non-freeway and freeway crash rates indicates that freeway travel is safer.*
This statement, along with Metro’s recent report that main streets are deadlier than highways, raises important questions about how ODOT is choosing to spend $400 million for such small safety gains. I think we could do a lot more to improve traffic safety with such a large pot of money. For instance, you could build out almost the entire Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 which would bring improvements to neighborhoods across the city.
In CRC news, today we’ve heard that River users said Columbia River Crossing too low, and planner ignored them
“The concept of taking a bridge and making it lower is so contrary to common sense,” said Tom Hickman, vice president of sales and marketing for Oregon Iron Works. “We’re kind of baffled how they got this far down the road without listening to the concerns. They seem to have just ignored us.”
Last summer, another review instigated by Kitzhaber and Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler deemed the CRC’s toll revenue projections to be inflated by nearly half a billion dollars. The CRC was relying on outdated and inaccurate traffic numbers, the review found.
Not surprisingly, the CRC is fielding some pointed criticism from area politicians, not a good thing for an organization reliant on the goodwill of Washington, D.C. and Salem and Olympia for financing.
“We are at a loss as to how such an oversight in this design could have occurred,” stated U.S. Rep. Jamie Herrera-Buetler and three other Washington Congress members in an April 30 letter to the CRC. “Given the importance of navigation to our region, we believe it is imperative that a new bridge not limit future river commerce.”
Funding for the project seems to be in doubt as well. The feds just rejected the ask for a $1 billion loan, citing the lack of funding support from the Oregon & Washington state legislatures.
Many of the premises used to convince Oregonians that the bridge is vital and necessary have been outed as false.
And that barely scratches the surface. It’s been a hot mess for many months.