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News / Business / Clark County Business

Federal Highway Administration gives thumbs up to I-5 Rose Quarter improvement project

Federal Highway Administration approval means ODOT can move forward with design

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 12, 2024, 9:59am

A project that aims to ease traffic congestion into downtown Portland, benefiting Clark County commuters, cleared a key hurdle this week.

The Federal Highway Administration approved the Interstate 5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project’s environmental review, the Oregon Department of Transportation said Tuesday.

The approval allows ODOT to move forward with the project and create a more detailed design. The announcement comes days after the project received a $450 million federal award from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The project will widen I-5 through the Rose Quarter in North Portland. Eventually, Clark County commuters could see broader shoulders and exit-to-exit auxiliary lanes aimed at reducing congestion and improving safety.

The Vancouver/Broadway southbound offramp will be relocated to the south, near the Moda Center, to support redevelopment opportunities, according to the project website.

I-5 at Interstate 84, just south of the Rose Quarter, is the 28th biggest traffic bottleneck in the United States, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. I-5 at the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River is ranked at No. 31.

Albina neighborhood

The Rose Quarter project also will create a highway cover over sections of I-5 with the goal of reconnecting Portland city streets. The project will also include seismic upgrades.

I-5 was built through the historically Black Albina neighborhood, forcing many to move farther north and northeast of the neighborhood.
“This federal investment will help Portland restore and revitalize what was once the largest, most vibrant Black neighborhood in Oregon,” said Millicent Williams, director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “We are proud to support the Albina Vision Trust and the aspiration for a neighborhood that creates generational wealth for the Black community.”

Despite the federal infusion of cash, the project is still about $1.3 billion short of the $1.9 billion estimated cost. The remaining funding could be addressed by the Oregon Legislature in 2025 when it is expected to pass a new transportation package.

One tool Oregon officials were looking at to fund future transportation projects suffered a setback Monday when Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek announced she will cancel Oregon’s Regional Mobility Pricing Project, which proposed tolling all lanes of I-5 and Interstate 205 from the interstate bridges to near Wilsonville, Ore.

The tolls were intended to reduce congestion and generate funding for future transportation projects.

Kotek’s decision doesn’t affect any future tolling on the interstate bridges.

Interstate Bridge Replacement Program officials planned to use Oregon’s toll system on the I-5 Bridge. With Kotek’s announcement, however, they now plan to use Washington’s Good to Go! system.

“Tolling remains an integral part of the program’s financial plan, and WSDOT’s Good To Go team has a solid track record of setting up and managing complex tolling systems. Our teams are working toge

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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Columbian staff writer