ODOT furthers discussion on I-5 improvements

Interstate 5 (KATU Photo)

Oregon Department of Transportation will meet with community liaisons Wednesday to discuss the massive I-5 improvement project through the Rose Quarter.

The $450 million project is a combined effort between ODOT and the Portland Bureau of Transportation. The goal is to improve safety in the area and reduce traffic.

According to ODOT, "The section of I-5 between I-84 and I-405 is a heavily traveled corridor and experiences the highest crash rate in the state of Oregon...this segment of I-5 also experiences some of the highest traffic volumes in the state, resulting in up to 12 hours of congestion each day."

The improvement project is still years away from construction, but these meetings help the state and city get input and feedback on the project's progress.

"We have various kinds of outreach that we do to various community groups, this is one of them," Don Hamilton, a spokesperson for ODOT, said.

Earlier this Fall, ODOT answered the public's questions about the project. Not everyone thinks the freeway expansion is a good idea, dozens of people and groups are campaigning against the project. One of them is the Community Cycling Center.

"We don't see this project as the best possible way to invest $450 million," Kasandra Griffin, the executive director for Community Cycling Center, said. Griffin added, that safety is not a major concern in the Rose Quarter. Hamilton disagrees, saying although it's not a part of the deadly crash corridor, it's still a concerning area.

"This has a high injury-rate. That's not something we take lightly," Hamilton said. "When we see as many crashes, when we see as many injuries as we do in this area, that's something that we need to address as well."

Hamilton said fender benders are common in the area, and although they aren't normally deadly, it shows there's room for improvement.

"Everybody treats fender benders like they're something cute, but they hurt, they cause damages, damage people and their cars," Hamilton said.

Hamilton argues the cost of the project is worth it.

"This is going to add an auxiliary lane during a certain stretch of the road," Hamilton said. "It's going to add shoulders. We hope that it may reduce the crash rate by as much as 50-percent in there. It's a huge safety savings in there."

The community liaisons meeting is Wednesday night a 7 p.m. This is the second time the community liaisons will meet to discuss the project. According to ODOT, "the is group is made up of 14 community members representing local businesses, community organizations and other area interests."

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