PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Activists rallied outside the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) on Tuesday, protesting the I-5 corridor expansion project.
They said they’re concerned about air pollution next to Harriet Tubman Middle School.
It’s a stretch of highway ODOT said is one of the most congested in the state.
For nearly a decade it’s been studying how to improve the I-5 corridor near the Rose Quarter.
ODOT’s Don Hamilton said the answer is expansion.
“This will have some auxiliary lanes for about 1000 feet and it’s going to have some safety shoulders so that cars can pull over when there’s a crash,” Hamilton said. “This is one of the most congested and one of the most dangerous sections of freeway in the state of Oregon. We see this reducing crashes by up to 50 percent in this corridor.”
Hamilton said the I-5 expansion project will help with congestion in a rapidly growing city.
ODOT said its response to air pollution concerns is it’s done its homework.
“We conducted an environmental assessment that did extensive work looking at the potential for the noise pollution, for the air quality, for our carbon emissions,” Hamilton said. “We found that there would actually be a slight drop in hydrocarbon emissions in this area if the project is built.”
“ODOT’s lying. We’ve studied the numbers ourselves, we brought in our own traffic engineers that found numerous problems and discrepancies with the data,” activist with No More Freeways, Aaron Brown said. “And we only received the data because we had to demand the data from them.”
Brown said No More Freeways was founded in 2017.
He said it’s been continually voicing to climate leaders to not widen freeways.
He said freeway expansion won’t solve traffic congestion.
He said they want a more thorough environmental impact study.
“40 percent of our carbon emissions come from transportation. It’s the only sector of our economy where emissions are growing and every dollar we spend on this freeway that will literally make our kids sick, we could instead be spending on biking, walking, making the buses run frequently, transit,” Brown said.
ODOT said its director is interested in seeing expansion projects around the state move forward, including the I-5 corridor.
Hamilton said the department is following the directive from the Oregon legislature to move forward with this project.
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