Outrageous Rose Quarter Project Cost Up 70%

It’s Community Redevelopment, Not Transportation

From the beginning, the $450 million Rose Quarter project was a pork-barrel boondoggle. Fully HALF that price estimate was going to pay to create real estate — two concrete lids over I-5 and an outrageously expensive $30-$50 million bike/pedestrian bridge the bike community doesn’t want.

That means $225 million was the price of extending auxiliary lanes on I-5 for safety. Now ODOT is informing citizens the price tag is up roughly 70 percent.

ODOT told citizens the project will not improve traffic congestion because they are not adding new I-5 through lanes. “We fully admit that this isn’t going to eliminate congestion at the Rose Quarter,” said ODOT’s Travis Brouwer.

Multiple Portland politicians told citizens it was a “community redevelopment” project. “If somebody came to me and said, ‘Ted, do you want to spend half a billion on a freeway expansion?’, I say, ‘No and hell no,’” Mayor Ted Wheeler said at a 2017 City Council hearing. “But that’s not what this is.” (OPB)

Scarce transportation dollars should not be spent on community redevelopment. “If Portland wants to put lids and all that kind of stuff on freeways . . . we’re not paying for it,” said Sen. Lee Beyer recently. “That’s a local decision, local desire … It’s not part of the state highway system.” (OPB).

Now ODOT is fibbing again. They blame “inflation” on the cost ballooning nearly 70%, from $450 million the legislature approved in 2017, to $795 million. That’s pure BS.

Inflation is running between 2% & 3%. The time frame for building the project is only eight years after legislative approval. Inflation would increase the $450 million price to $527 million @ 2%, or $605 million @ 3%. Heads should roll at ODOT for the mismanagement and deception in this debacle.

Finally, the entire HB2017 package was $5.3 Billion. How many of those projects had no inflation calculated?

The original $450 million Rose Quarter project was 8.5% of total transportation spending authorized. Now at $795 million, that equals 15% of total spending. If the “community redevelopment” activists get their way the $1 BILLION plus expenditure could equal 20% or more of total HB2017 spending.

In fact some real estate and “community activists” are pushing to beef up the lids to support 7-15 story buildings. That would add $200 million to $500 million to the price tag on top of the $795 million.

The rest of the state should be outraged and pull the plug on this unacceptable “community redevelopment” project. Our transportation dollars are vitally needed elsewhere!

Taxpayers should put this in context. The 2018 PEMCO survey reported 94% of Northwest citizens want to use their privately owned vehicles.

An April 2019 Oregon Transportation Commission survey found 51% of citizens want to “expand and improve interstates and interstate bridges.” Another 14% want expanded arterials. (OTC).

Metro’s 2019 poll showed people’s top priority is roads and highways. The Portland Tribune summarized: “On its own, improving public transit is a lower priority than making road improvements and the more overarching goal of easing traffic — voters still overwhelmingly rely on driving alone to get around,” reads the poll’s conclusions.

Citizens want point-to-point service in either privately owned vehicles or Lyft/Uber vehicles. Uber and Lyft now carry more people than Seattle’s Sound Transit light rail. (Seattle Times).

Use the $450 million to expand metro area roads and freeways; use it to build new transportation corridors. It’s been 40 years since a new transportation corridor was built: Interstate 205. Serve the people and their transportation needs and desires.

************

REFERENCES

The original proposal, as shown in an ODOT graphic.

It has now morphed into a real estate developer’s dream. Note all the 7 to 15 story buildings in glass on the right (east) side.

The January 2020 ODOT report indicates the following is the “purpose” of the Rose Quarter project.

PROJECT PURPOSE
The purpose of the Project is to improve the safety and operations on I-5 between I-405 and I-84, and within the I-5 Broadway/Weidler interchange. In support of this purpose, the Project will improve local connectivity and multimodal access in the vicinity of the Broadway/Weidler interchange, and improve multimodal connections between neighborhoods located to the east and west of I-5.”

I-5 safety and congestion – The segment of I-5 between I-405 and I-84 incurs 3.5 times more crashes than the statewide average and has some of the highest traffic volumes in the state (12 hours of congestion each day). The Project’s auxiliary lanes and wider safety shoulders will reduce frequent crashes and save drivers nearly 2.5 million hours of vehicle delay each year.

Here is ODOT’s graphic showing the “before and after” of the Auxiliary Lanes that will allegedly cost 55% of the project, or $442 million. (ODOT)

The 2019 METRO transportation poll indicated the majority of people still rely on their cars to get around. Here it shows 88%!

When I-205 opened, it provided a decade of traffic congestion relief on I-5. Here are the numbers.