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City of Portland plans to revisit I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty thinks the project could make a comeback — by building on top of the freeway.

PORTLAND, Ore. — At a Portland City Council meeting this week, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty hinted at the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project getting a shot in the arm.

"I'm proposing the city of Portland come back to the I-5 Rose Quarter Project," Hardesty said. "I'm proud we've negotiated an acceptable compromise with the Hybrid 3 option."

The Hybrid 3 option, among other things, calls for parts of the freeway to be capped. This paves the way for developable land that will reconnect the historically Black Albina neighborhood.

"It helps us undue the racist harm of past policies," Hardesty said.

RELATED: Families rally to save Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in NE Portland

The perceived refusal of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to reverse that past harm is why the city of Portland walked away from the expansion project in the first place. 

But now it appears the city is once again willing to work with ODOT. The nonprofit Albina Vision Trust is all for it, seeing as its values will be guarded.

"We believe transportation should heal and connect," said Winta Yohannes, executive director of the Albina Vision Trust. "Kids should be safe in the city core. The urban fabric should be repaired. Stolen wealth should be restored and we need to build for the future."

But not everybody supports the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project, which would add auxiliary lanes and shoulders in the state's most congested area.

"This is still a huge missed opportunity," one man testified.

RELATED: ODOT must redo Rose Quarter project environmental analysis, feds say

Critics of what is sure to be a billion-dollar project say it will hurt the climate.

"Any lessening of congestion will be short-lived and will be bad as ever but with more lanes of it," one woman added.

Perhaps those concerns will be addressed in the months and years ahead. For now, the city of Portland appears to be ready to reclaim its seat at the table.

"This is a big step and it's been a long time coming," Hardesty said.

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