PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - The Oregon Transportation Commission deferred action on the half billion dollar improvement plan to I-5 on Tuesday after months of push-back from community groups.
Governor Kate Brown also sent a letter to the commissioners Monday, asking them to hold off on the Rose Quarter Project vote until policies, decision-making structures and a third-party study are completed.
"These items were requested for completion over six months ago, and ODOT has not yet completed them," Gov. Brown said in the letter. "In order to move forward in partnership with the region, they must be completed before an environmental review path is chosen."
Commissioners heard comments from 13 people for and against the project at Tuesday's meeting in Lebanon.
The Rose Quarter Project has been in the works for decades. The Oregon Department of Transportation's goal is to add lanes and shoulders to what it calls the "biggest traffic bottleneck in Oregon" where I-5 intersects with I-84 and I-405.
"This area of I-5 was built half a century ago without any significant improvements to congestion in the area," ODOT representative Don Hamilton said.
But groups like No More Freeways, Sunrise PDX and families from Harriet Tubman Middle School have voiced concerns about additional emissions if the freeway is expanded.
"I think the bottom line is climate leaders don't widen freeways," Sunrise PDX member Anna Kemper said.
Kemper called Tuesday's decision a win, calling on ODOT for additional transparency and diligence when it comes to environmental impact studies and exploring alternative solutions.
"We're hopeful that this means that the Rose Quarter Freeway will have proper evaluations done environmentally, and in the long-term, hopefully it will not be expanded," Kemper said.
Hamilton told FOX 12 that large projects like the Rose Quarter Project are often met with many questions, saying ODOT is doing everything it can to get concerns addressed.
ODOT stands by its proposal. Hamilton said the proposed improvements to I-5 will make the area safer for everybody and even reduce emissions by cutting down on how much time vehicles are sitting idle on the freeway
"ODOT's 2018 Traffic Performance Report found congestion on the region's freeways increased 13 percent between 2015 and 2017, while daily vehicle hours of delay increased by 20 percent," ODOT said in a news release.
"If we can really see a 50 percent reduction in crashes here, we're going to improve people's lives," Hamilton said.
Commissioners did vote to move forward with tolling studies for I-5 and I-205, approving the formation of an Equity and Mobility Advisory Committee. Members will be selected early next year.
The transportation commission will meet in January to discuss immediate next steps for ODOT and the Rose Quarter Project.
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