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Release of the Environmental Assessment is pushed back until late February, but public comment will still only be allowed for 30 days.

COURTESY ODOT - A portion of the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project map.The Oregon Department of Transportation has rejected a request from an organization opposed to reworking the freeways in the Rose Quarter area for more public comment time on the current proposal.

The No More Freeway Expansion Coalition had asked ODOT on Nov. 28 for more than 30 days for public comment on the Environmental Assessment of the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Projects that is in the works.

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.

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.

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.

In response to the ODOT letter, the coalition tweeted, "The good news: there will be an public event to submit testimony in March. Stay tuned, we're gonna turn it into a helluva party."

You can read the 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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