Feds Toss the Environmental Assessment for Portland Controversial Freeway Widening Project

It's back to the drawing board for the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project.

January 20, 2022, 12:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

I-84 to I-5 Interstate Freeway in Portland Oregon with Long Exposure Vehicle Traffic Motion

Interstate 84 where it approaches Interstate 5 near the Rose Quarter in Portland, Oregon. | JPL Designs / Shutterstock

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will have to again review the environmental impacts of a proposed freeway widening project on Interstate 5 in the Rose Quarter near Downtown Portland, reports Jayati Ramakrishnan for The Oregonian.

"In a letter to ODOT, made public by the climate activist group No More Freeways, Federal Highway Administration administrator Phillip Ditzler said he rescinded his approval of the environmental assessment because of modifications ODOT made to the I-5 freeway project since he approved the findings in 2020," according to Ramakrishnan.

The modifications in question are a freeway cap:

Those modifications include a freeway cover that would reconnect several blocks in the Albina neighborhood, a historically Black community that was partially razed in the 1960s to build I-5. That plan was approved by the Oregon Transportation Commission in September following a long disagreement between ODOT and local entities, including the community nonprofit Albina Vision Trust, as well as the city and Multnomah County. Those groups had said ODOT’s original plan for freeway covers was inadequate.

The I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project, as the freeway widening proposal is called, has been a poster child for the highway widening status quo in recent years, attracting focused criticism after ODOT released an environmental impact assessment in February 2019 that promised the project would deliver air quality and traffic safety improvements.

The source article includes insight into the decision by the Federal Highway Administration and potential next steps for local groups fighting the project.

Thursday, January 20, 2022 in The Oregonian

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