The Future of the Rose Quarter

After leading a years-long legislative effort to improve accessibility and safety for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users, The Street Trust helped secure record investments in the recently enacted statewide transportation funding package, including $125 million for Safe Routes to School and more than $1 billion for public transit in our region. This historic victory puts us one step closer to reaching our Vision Zero goals and makes it safer and easier for Oregonians to get around using active transportation – but our fight is far from over.

The Street Trust worked hard to impact the negative aspects of the package. We fought to reduce the proposed bicycle tax to a $15 flat tax and to eliminate the freeway projects included in the bill. While we were successful in passing a package which reflects our commitment to active transportation, the bill passed by legislators still provides funding for several highway improvement projects throughout the state.

Now that this bill has become law, infrastructure projects funded by the package will receive new scrutiny. One of these projects is an improvement on I-5 in the Rose Quarter which involves a widening of the highway as well as the creation of additional bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Many active transportation advocates oppose this project, and several of our partners have joined a coalition calling for its removal from Portland’s Transportation System Plan, citing numerous valid concerns on its cost and impact on safety and congestion.

To remain consistent with the compromises reached with legislators and stakeholders in the bill, we have chosen not to sign on to this coalition’s letter. This position is not to be confused with opposition to the coalition’s goals – in fact, we encourage these advocates to make their voices heard as we fight together towards our shared priorities.

While we have chosen not to sign this coalition’s letter, we share advocates’ concerns and wholeheartedly agree that widening highways will not reduce congestion. We need bold, innovative ideas to transform how people get around and to build a future where more sustainable and active modes of transportation are prioritized over single-occupancy motor vehicles. We all have a role to play in this political ecosystem and we are grateful for our partners and others who are doing their part to help us get there.

Earlier this week, we shared The Street Trust’s position on this issue with several community members and media outlets, including See our full statement below:

Our priority at The Street Trust, now that the Oregon Legislature has chosen to fund the project, is to make sure that the congestion pricing, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian bridge, cap over the highway, and surface street improvements are fully funded and implemented as part of the project.

Widening highways will not reduce congestion. We are pleased to see our community partners leading a public conversation about this issue. We agree with many of the concerns raised by opponents of the project and think the best approach is to hold our leaders accountable to deliver the project elements that provide the most benefit.

To truly address traffic, the Rose Quarter project must include congestion pricing to manage demand during the busiest times of day. This a strategy that we strongly support and will work towards.

The project plan includes a much needed cap over the highway, reconnects the surface streets in the area, builds a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge over I-5, and improves connections between the Lloyd District and Downtown Portland.

We would love to see this project successfully set a new precedent for how we address urban highways in Portland. We would like ODOT, the City of Portland, and regional leaders to pursue congestion pricing on all our busy highways. We would like to see more of our communities stitched back together by burying urban highways under a cap.

We know that widening highways will not reduce congestion. The ~1.5 new lane miles on I-5 through the Rose Quarter aren’t the most important part of this project. We would oppose it if it compromised the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. We are choosing to work with project planners and local leaders to ensure that the most important street safety improvements don’t get value-engineered out of the project and that we set a new standard of congestion pricing and capping urban freeways in Portland.

Photo credit: Steve Morgan via Wikimedia Commons

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Comments (1)

  1. rick Permalink  | Sep 01, 2017 12:02pm

    Are you pushing to enact a ban or a fee on metal-studded car tires?