Commissioner Hardesty remarks on big day for transportation projects

Press Release
In a big day for regional transportation projects, Commissioner Hardesty leads Portland to rejoin I-5 Rose Quarter project, wins OK for regional compromise on I-5 bridge project

The Portland City Council reached major milestones this morning on two crucial regional transportation projects that will shape our city and metro area for generations to come. As the Commissioner-in-Charge of Transportation, Commissioner Hardesty led the city's efforts to hold these regional projects to the City of Portland's goals -- and she won unanimous support from the City Council on both.

Commissioner Hardesty made the case for why the City of Portland should formally rejoin ODOT’s I-5 Rose Quarter project, reversing the City‘s unprecedented decision to pull out of the project in 2020. With today's 5-0 vote, the city has officially rejoined the project, agreeing to advance a major redesign and set of conditions that Commissioner Hardesty negotiated with Gov. Kate Brown.

Commissioner Hardesty also advocated for a regional compromise for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Project. With today's 5-0 vote, Portland has laid out specific conditions the project must meet for it to be built.

Please see excerpts of Commissioner Hardesty's prepared remarks below.

Remarks on I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project

"Today, I am proposing that the City of Portland come back to the I-5 Rose Quarter Project. 

This is a big step. It's been a long time coming.

Over the last year, I have negotiated an acceptable compromise for re-engaging this project.

ODOT would not listen to us. So we dealt directly with Governor Brown. 

It took hours and hours of negotiation and advocacy. Hours and hours with elected officials like Metro Council President Lynn Petersen and Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson. Hours and hours with community advocates and the Albina Vision Trust. 

I’m proud that we have negotiated an acceptable compromise with the “Hybrid 3” option.

This option will build highway covers that create developable land and that sustain buildings over I-5, allowing us to reconnect the historically Black Albina neighborhood. Buildable highway covers were not a part of ODOT’s original plan.

ODOT had proposed 3 and half acres of bits and pieces over I-5.

With Hybrid 3, we have 8 acres. These 8 acres will do more than cover I-5. 

  • These acres provide the kind of city street grid that other Portland neighborhoods take for granted. They reconnect North Flint Street and North Hancock Street -- two neighborhood streets that were amputated by the original construction of I-5.

  • These acres provide a platform where we can create buildings and community spaces that bring back the neighborhood. 

With this compromise, we have assurance that ODOT will use congestion pricing to manage traffic and reduce carbon emissions.

With this compromise, we have assurance that Harriet Tubman School will be moved away from the highway. I-5 never should have been built next door to Portland's historically Black middle school.

With this compromise, we have a commitment that ODOT will work with the City and the Albina Vision Trust to transfer development rights and land ownership on highway cover or remnant lands created by the project. 

With this compromise, we have the potential to set a new standard for minority and disadvantaged business contracting.

With this compromise, we have accountability. If ODOT breaks their promises again, this agreement makes it clear that we will walk away again.

This agreement expires in July 2024. It is limited to the environmental evaluation and preliminary engineering phase. In two years, the project will need to come back to City Council to make the case that ODOT has kept its promises and deserves to proceed to construction.

With all these elements, I believe this is a compromise worth supporting."

Remarks on Interstate Bridge Replacement Project

"It's important for everyone to remember, the Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR) is not a City of Portland project. It's not how we would spend this much money on transportation. It is a project prioritized by two states and their Governors, with federal support, to address an undeniable need for earthquake resiliency. Our job as a city has been to help the states make a project that does not undermine the City of Portland’s goals. 

We have attached Conditions of Approval to our endorsement that make clear to the IBR program what our requirements and expectations are. This includes process and community engagement, how to implement the stated climate and equity commitments, and accountability to this Council and our partners. 

The project will include a Light Rail extension to Vancouver that will bring a dramatic increase in public transit service for a large part of our region. We are encouraged by the approach to reduce the impact of I-5 on Hayden Island, creating an opportunity to restore the local street grid. New local access to and from Hayden Island will keep local traffic off the highway. The investment in biking and walking across North Portland and in Vancouver will be transformative. We’ve reached agreement for providing no more than one auxiliary lane in each direction on I-5 over the Columbia River.

There's more work to be done. We wouldn't have come this far if it wasn't for the young climate activists and other community volunteers who have helped hold this project accountable. 

This is a huge project. This is a real big deal. I hope we will take a moment to appreciate how far we have come as a region. 

We will be back here many times. 

I hope that all the community organizations stay engaged and stay involved. It is vital that we continue to hear from the Sunrise Movement and others."