From the beginning, I’ve made it clear that the Rose Quarter I-5 project did not fit the priorities or values of PBOT, the City of Portland, or myself. While the interchange is poorly designed and could stand to be reconfigured, it was hard to justify such a huge investment in a project that would not significantly decrease serious injuries and fatalities on our roadways and would deliver a very modest and short-lived decrease in congestion and carbon emissions. Approximately half of Portland’s traffic fatalities happen on ODOT properties, which only make up 12% of our roadways. There are many more urgent and worthy projects if you value human life.
The Rose Quarter I-5 corridor is a horizontal monument to the racist legacy of our transportation system. In 1962, ODOT dug a trench through Oregon’s largest Black community, demolishing 300+ plus homes, disrupting and destabilizing the community, and polluting the environment. The only consolation of this project in my opinion, was the promised investment in the surface streets, and in particular the caps, that were intended to help stitch Lower Albina back together and pave the way for development focused on racial equity and restorative justice.
At every step of this process I have fought for community interests and demands—we had some wins and losses. Portland City Council made congestion pricing a requirement for the project through the Comp Plan. I successfully advocated for ODOT to hold a public hearing, extend the comment period, and create an executive steering committee. But despite the fact the City, County, Metro, and Portland Public Schools—along with hundreds of community members—called for a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS), the OTC determined that a much less rigorous Environmental Assessment (EA) would suffice. We then pivoted to outcomes for the Black community, working closely with Albina Vision Trust.
However, after the first executive steering committee, it became clear to me that ODOT was determined to move forward with the project as planned, that they were resistant to congestion pricing, that the steering committee was to be treated as an advisory body with no governing authority, that ODOT did not seem to grasp the concept of restorative justice, and we were unlikely to achieve the outcomes we were seeking. I am so pleased that so many of us have now come to the same conclusion. This is the wrong project for our city. I am stepping down from the steering committee. I do not support the Rose Quarter I-5 Corridor project. And I urge the state to prioritize safety, climate change, and racial justice in all future transportation investments.