The nonprofit advocacy group Albina Vision Trust withdrew its support for the proposed Interstate 5 Rose Quarter expansion project Tuesday, prompting Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to follow suit later in the day, according to local media reports.
The proposed $715 million project would add “auxiliary lanes” to a segment of I-5 in Portland between the junctions with Interstates 84 and 405, with the goal of decreasing traffic congestion and accidents in the busy corridor.
Albina Vision Trust had been advocating for the project to be designed with an eye toward restoring the historic Albina neighborhood that surrounds the Rose Quarter, including adding lids over the freeway to reconnect the two halves of the neighborhood that were severed during I-5’s original construction.
According to multiple media reports, Albina Vision Trust sent a letter to the Oregon Department of Transportation stating that it would no longer participate in the planning stages of the project due to a lack of meaningful engagement from ODOT.
Wheeler withdrew support later in the day, citing Albina Vision’s decision and a lack of progress on the issues of community involvement and restorative justice.
Portland commissioner Chloe Eudaly, Multnomah County commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson and Metro president Lynn Peterson all issued statements in support of Albina Vision, according to a report in Willamette Week.
The project, if it is built, could be a benefit for Clark County commuters who can get jammed by daily congestion near the Rose Quarter, the nation’s 28th biggest truck bottleneck.
The project also has implications for the second effort getting underway to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge. Critics of bridge replacement say it doesn’t make sense to ease chronic congestion near the Columbia River if nothing is done about a major traffic chokepoint some 5 miles farther south.
Fierce opposition to the Rose Quarter project could provide a preview of upcoming debate over replacing the I-5 Bridge and what that project means for climate change and residential development in Clark County.