PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Portlanders on Tuesday voiced their opinions on a freeway project that would expand parts of Interstate 5 in the Rose Quarter, as well as connect local streets.
Oregon Department of Transportation officials say it will bring much-needed improvements to the area but not everyone agrees.
“You’re so close to the freeway that you can throw a can over the yard fence and it will hit the freeway,” said Harriet Tubman Middle School student Io Dennerlein Manson.
Student Sadie Herout said, “It’s not just going to be affecting me, it’s going to be affecting a lot of people.”
Manson and Herout – students at Harriet Tubman Middle School – are now concerned about an ODOT project so close by.
That project spans I-5 from I-84 to I-405. it includes auxiliary lanes connecting ramp to ramp so drivers don’t have to merge into through traffic.
It adds shoulders for disabled and emergency vehicles and it includes highway covers and a new overcrossing.
It even adds to local streets, with walking and cycling paths at the Broadway-Weidler interchange.
All in all, it’s an expansive project that ODOT says will make for safer and less congested travel.
At a public hearing Tuesday night, ODOT presented the findings of their environmental assessment, saying the project will save 2.5 million hours of travel time a year while also decreasing stop and go traffic, which improves air quality.
Some spoke in favor of the project.
“This is one that we have to deal with and I think ODOT is probably doing the best they can,” said a supporter of the project.
But of the more than 70 people who testified, most of them were against it.
Many of them said they think freeway expansion encourages more drivers. They’re concerned that will in turn lead to more pollution.
“The air quality is very bad at our school. To add more trucks and automobiles would increase toxic particulates in the air,” said Herout.
Herout’s mother, Brooke Herout, said, “During recess kids are running around and playing soccer and playing basketball and they’re not going to stop doing that even if the highway construction goes through and it will mean greater health risk to all the students there and the staff.”
The students and parents are also worried about construction which they say could mean more traffic on surface streets and make getting to school more difficult.
But since this project is still years down the road, they say they're especially concerned for the students behind them and hope ODOT factors them in.
“They should consider what else is going to happen when they do this and if they do this, because, yeah, it will affect the people of the future,” said Herout.
Construction would begin in 2023 at the earliest.
ODOT is accepting feedback on its environmental assessment through April 1. That includes online feedback or by mail or phone.