SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown supports moving forward with a plan that would expand Interstate 5 through Portland’s Rose Quarter while spending more than $1 billion to build a “cap” over the freeway to rebuild a community wrecked by its initial construction.
Speaking before a meeting of stakeholder and advisory groups convened by the Oregon Department of Transportation, Brown also confirmed Tuesday she hoped to relocate a middle school perched on the highway’s fringes. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports such a move could grant additional space for the expansion process, and address concerns about poor air quality impacting students.
“Over the past few weeks I’ve hosted conversations with some key government and community stakeholders,” Brown said in a brief appearance before the committees. “I began those conversations because I wanted to ensure that this project is part of addressing and not repeating the historic wrongs caused by the displacement of countless Black families, and the resulting generational damage that occurred. And I also did it because I truly believe that there was a win-win opportunity…”
The plan Brown landed on, known as “hybrid 3” is an attempt to address the many competing priorities different groups have brought to the controversial highway expansion project.
Business leaders and state transportation officials have said for years that an existing bottleneck on the highway creates harmful delays and poses a risk for crashes that repeatedly snarl traffic. Members of Portland’s Black community have forcefully argued any project needs to include a strong highway cap that will allow for development in a historically African American neighborhood destroyed by the construction of I-5. And climate and transportation activists say the entire premise of increasing highway throughput is wrongheaded at a time when the impacts of climate change are being felt more acutely than ever.
While the precise details of the approach must still be hammered out, a summary of the “hybrid 3” approach includes calls for a highway cover estimated to cost between $1.1 billion and $1.16 billion — the vast majority of the project’s total cost. Those caps could accommodate three-story buildings, ODOT says. Previous iterations of the highway project had included two unconnected covers, with limited opportunity for building.