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The environmental study of the controversialo freeway project will be released on Feb. 15 and the public comment period has been extended to 45 days.

COURTESY ODOT - A portion of the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project map.The Oregon Department of Transportation reversed gears and extended the public comment period for the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project's Environmental Assessment from 30 to 45 days.

ODOT had earlier rejected a request from opponents of the project for an additional 60 days of public comment. The new scheduled was announced on Tuesday when ODOT said the study will be released on Feb. 15.

"The public comment period, originally set for 30 days, is being extended to 45 days. The additional 15 days will allow more time for the community to consider and provide meaningful comments on the environmental findings. The public comment period will close on Monday, April 1 at 5 p.m.," ODOT said.

According to the announcement, ODOT and the City of Portland will host community events during the public comment period, including an open house and a public hearing to provide opportunities for oral and written testimony. They will include:

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mail ODOT, Attn: Megan Channel 123 N.W. Flanders St. Portland, OR, 97209

Phone Leave a recorded verbal comment at 503-423-3760

Drop-in Open House Thursday March 7, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Leftbank Annex, Clubroom, 101 N. Weidler St., Portland

Public Hearing Tuesday, March 12, sign up to speak 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event begins 5 p.m. with a presentation followed by public comment, Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland.

Online Open House Friday, Feb. 15 through 5 p.m. Monday, April 1 at i5rosequarter.org

The project is intended to realign the complex I-5 and I-84 interchanges in the Rose Quarter area and improve bike and pedestrian crossings over the freeways. It has been in the works for many years and is supported by the Oregon Legislature and the Portland City Council, pending its final design and funding.

"We are imagining a new Rose Quarter area, where cars and freight trucks on I-5 have more space and time to merge while traveling through the area; where people walking and biking can comfortably cross a bridge over I-5 that is designed just for them; where getting from the Broadway Bridge to the Lloyd area feels less daunting for those who walk, bike and drive," reads the project website.

The cost is currently estimated at around $500 million. The 2017 Oregon Legislature directed the Oregon Transportation Commission to ask the Federal Highway Administration for permission to toll parts or all of I-5 in Portland to help pay for it. The FHWA said the project "likely" qualifies for tolling on Jan 8.

The No More Freeway Expansion Coalition had asked ODOT on Nov. 28 for an additional 60 days of public comment. As the coalition's name says, it is opposed to any project that increases freeway capacity, even adding or lengthening on-and-off lanes in the Rose Quarter area.

"As community advocates, local business owners and elected officials concerned about the impacts this project may have on the North Portland community and the region as a whole, we are concerned that the 30-day public comment period will not give community advocates enough time to meaningfully review and provide feedback on ODOT's findings," read the group's Nov. 28 letter, which was signed by representatives of over 25 organizations and businesses.

Project Manager Megan Channell wrote back on Jan. 11 to say ODOT would not extend the comment period an additional 60 days, as the coalition has requested. However, Channell said the release of the evaluation had been delayed from early January to late February to avoid conflicts with holidays, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 21. In addition, Channell promised ODOT would hold a open houses and a public hearing on the assessment in March.

"We also have a robust plan for sharing the report findings, including multiple community presentations on top of the open houses and public hearing. The project team will also be made available during the public comment period to help answer any questions," Channell wrote.

You can read the previous ODOT letter here.

You can read a previous Portland Tribune story in the issue here.

You can learn more about the project at i5rosequarter.org


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