Letters: Rose Quarter ‘fix’ won’t improve safety

Spending half a billion dollars doesn’t fix the problem

Safety is supposedly the overwhelming first priority of transportation officials

The Portland Tribune printed my letter here.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Safety is supposedly the overwhelming first priority of transportation officials and politicians. We’re discussing the most unsafe site to drive in Oregon. The 2-mile, two-lane section of Interstate 5 at the Rose Quarter has three times the accident rate of the Terwilliger Curves.

ODOT says it’s also the region’s No. 1 bottleneck.

Yet half the transportation money proposed for the I-5 Rose Quarter project has absolutely nothing to do with improving safety. It has nothing to do with adding new through lanes to reduce traffic congestion; nothing to do with adding shoulders for safety.

After spending a half-billion taxpayer transportation dollars, the Rose Quarter will still have the highest accident rate in Oregon. That’s an outrage.

Let’s do some math. Rose Quarter accidents are 300 percent of the Terwilliger Curves. ODOT “experts” hope the improvements will provide a 30 percent to 50 percent reduction in crashes.

Even if they achieve the 50 percent reduction, the Rose Quarter will still have 150 percent of the crashes and accidents of the Terwilliger Curves.

Why spend scarce taxpayer dollars if you’re not going to fix the safety problem? Clearly, safety isn’t ODOT’s top priority here.

Dan Saltzman bragged about this project being “community redevelopment.” It’s creating real estate by building two concrete lids over I-5. The lids and a bike-pedestrian bridge will consume half the money.

Out of the 10 items listed on ODOT’s website describing the Rose Quarter project, only three relate to improvements on I-5 for traffic and vehicle safety. That demonstrates this is not about improving traffic safety and reducing vehicle congestion. It makes Saltzman’s point — it’s “community redevelopment.”

Transportation dollars are supposed to be “protected,” not for community redevelopment. Taxpayers should demand a more appropriate fix. It’s a safety issue.

ODOT also reports this is the No. 1 bottleneck in Oregon. Why aren’t new through lanes being added to Interstate 5?

While the auxiliary lane extensions will reduce accidents and slightly improve traffic speeds, it won’t be as effective as adding new through lanes to I-5. ODOT reports: “the auxiliary lanes will not provide long-term capacity relief to congestion problems.”

Furthermore, ODOT says: “In the NB direction, between the Marquam Bridge and the Interstate Bridge, there are four recurring bottlenecks … from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.” Will any of those four northbound bottlenecks be eliminated after spending a half-billion dollars?

In the southbound direction, ODOT reports: “the most significant recurring bottleneck is at the Rose Quarter (Broadway) with congestion extending back to Rosa Parks Way.” There are nine hours of congestion, which poses significant problems for freight.

Question: After spending $500 million on the proposed improvements, will the Rose Quarter section of I-5 no longer be the “No. 1 bottleneck in Oregon”? Unless the answer is “yes,” this project is a huge waste of taxpayer transportation dollars.

Stop this wasteful spending of scarce transportation dollars until a proper expansion of through lanes on I-5 at the Rose Quarter can be agreed upon and the safety problems truly fixed.

John Ley

Camas, Washington

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REFERENCES

The 2012 City of Portland report shows the I-5 Rose Quarter has the highest accident rate in Oregon.

HALF the $450 million (now $500 million) allocated for the Rose Quarter will pay for “community redevelopment” according to Dan Salzman. It will create real estate by building two concrete lids over I-5, and spending $30-$50 million on a bike/pedestrian only bridge. Here’s the graphic from ODOT. The two “lids” and the bike/pedestrian only bridge are in yellow.

The congestion at the Rose Quarter and bottlenecks in the region.