Lars: Doubling the price of the Rose Quarter project

ODOT increased the size of the “lid” being proposed at the Rose Quarter, to accommodate real estate

On Thursday, Lars Larson returned from his Christmas vacation. When he mentioned the traffic problems in the Portland metro area, that was my opportunity to call in.

Take a listen.

 

The original plan was going to waste about HALF the $450 million price tag to build TWO concrete lids over I-5, plus a $30-50 million bike/pedestrian bridge. Portland politicians talked about the project being “community redevelopment” when HB 2017 was passed. ODOT’s plan was also going to eliminate the Flint St. overpass & relocate an on ramp. See the ODOT graphic below.

In December, the local press reported that ODOT had a revised proposal. This time the estimated cost is $795 million. They would significantly increase the size of the concrete lid, making it one, very expensive piece of real estate.

Here is ODOT’s graphic.

Note all the multiple story “glass” proposed or possible buildings on the right side (east) of I-5.

At a community Open House over a year ago, an ODOT engineer told me they needed to do the two lids (versus one) because of federal highway air handling requirements. One large lid would create a “tunnel”, and therefore require expensive air handling equipment to be added.

So now, the politicians have persuaded ODOT to modify the $450 million proposal, to build a $795 million piece of real estate.

Understand that in the original proposal, only about HALF or $225 million, was the cost of the auxiliary lane extensions on I-5, that were going to improve vehicle safety and reduce accidents. Citizens should be outraged that their gas tax dollars and vehicle registration fees are going to create real estate, in lieu of improving congestion and reducing commute times.

ODOT has told citizens this project will NOT improve traffic congestion. That is because they are not adding new through lanes to I-5 at the Rose Quarter. They’re simply extending “auxiliary lanes” and relocating on/off ramps. They are adding zero new capacity for vehicles.

Willamette Week reported the increase on Christmas day here.

They did a follow up story, (here) interviewing ODOT officials where ODOT blames “inflation”. I throw the BS flag on “inflation” because (1) inflation was figured into the original project, and (2) no way would inflation DOUBLE the cost in the next 5 years.