The Oregon Transportation Commission on Thursday approved a key step forward for the proposed project to widen Interstate 5 through Portland’s Rose Quarter area.
In a unanimous vote, the five-member commission declared that the project can move forward without a full Environmental Impact Statement, which would have pushed back the start of construction.
The project would add “auxiliary lanes” to the roughly 2-mile stretch of I-5 between the junctions with Interstates 84 and 405, with the goal of easing congestion from merging traffic and speeding up one of the state’s biggest transportation bottlenecks.
The project has been controversial, with opponents such as the group No More Freeway Expansions arguing that the added capacity will induce more drivers to take the freeway and won’t do anything to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Project opponents had been advocating for a larger environmental study.
Earlier cost estimates pegged the project at $450 million and later $500 million, but a more recent estimate from the Oregon Department of Transportation put the cost at a minimum of $715 million.