ODOT Must Move Forward on the Rose Quarter I-5 Bottleneck

By Eric Fruits, Ph.D.

Last week, the Oregon Transportation Commission took a significant step in the process of widening I-5 through the Rose Quarter.

This stretch of freeway has been named one of the worst bottlenecks in the country by the American Transportation Research Institute.

ODOT forecasts the improvements will save more than 2.5 million hours of travel time each year and reduce crashes by up to 50 percent.

Despite these clear benefits, a small but noisy coalition calling themselves “No More Freeways” has tried to stymie the project at every step. Their spokesman, Metro Council candidate Chris Smith, is so upset that he has demanded the legislature strip the transportation commission of its power and hand it over to Metro, the regional government for which he is seeking a seat.

He points to Metro’s so-called success in planning for the SW Corridor light rail project. But, Metro’s light rail project will add to traffic congestion at more than 30 intersections and several freeway ramps. Ridership estimates are already down nearly 15% from earlier projections. And, the project has no guarantee of state, local, or federal funding to cover the costs. This isn’t success, it’s fumbling toward failure.

The Rose Quarter project has a plan, it has the money, and it’ll play a crucial role in relieving congestion at one of the country’s worst bottlenecks. It’s time to move forward on I-5 improvements.

Eric Fruits, Ph.D. is Vice President of Research at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Comments 2

  1. Avatar for John P Ley

    John P Ley

    11:53 am - April 9, 2020

    Dr. Fruits:

    You are right that Interstate 5 NEEDS in the worst way, more lanes, and more vehicle capacity. That “need” has been identified for decades. Yet the Portland area politicians have refused to allow ODOT to build new lanes, in spite of regional population doubling since 1980. (We opened I-205 in Dec. 1980 — the last new transportation corridor constructed in the region.)

    But you need to also point out the HUGE waste of scarce taxpayer dollars in the Rose Quarter project.

    Portland is demanding ODOT build TWO concrete “lids” over I-5. This will create real estate on top of I-5, that will provide a huge opportunity for real estate developers.

    In the proposed original budget ($450 million), fully HALF the spending was going to the two “lids” over I-5. That is NOT what scarce transportation dollars are for. People paying gas taxes and car tab fees should NOT be paying for “community redevelopment”, which is how many Portland politicians have described the project.

    The project has now ballooned to $795 million. There’s no real accounting on how much of that is going toward the “community redevelopment” and the creation of real estate, and how much is going towards the two “auxiliary lanes” that are supposedly being created along the roughly 1.5 mile stretch of Interstate 5.

    Share that reality with your readers!

  2. Avatar for Bob Clark

    Bob Clark

    10:09 am - April 10, 2020

    Good catch, John Ley. Guess the lids are the cost of lessening City of Portland’s stranglehold over the Metro area’s key transportation corridor. We need another freeway bypass of the City of Portland. West side needs desperately such a freeing from the core of the City of Portland.

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