Rose Quarter widening makes national list of highway boondoggles

Media Contacts

Expensive, unnecessary project would be a step backward to car-dependent policies of the past

OSPIRG Foundation

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland typically ranks near the top when it comes to cities with the best public transportation. But according to a new report from OSPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group, an expensive proposal to widen I-5 in the Rose Quarter would run counter to the city’s reputation. The $450 million project would increase highway lanes in the project area by 50 percent, with extra-wide shoulders to potentially accommodate an even higher-capacity freeway in the future.

“Improving Oregon’s transportation system means reducing our reliance on cars,” said Charlie Fisher, OSPIRG Foundation’s director. “This project does the opposite, doubling down on a car-centric system that will lead to more traffic and pollution.”

According to the state, the project will improve safety, congestion and street-level service for bicyclists and pedestrians. But according to the report, there is little evidence of that. Plus, local advocates and city advisors argue that the project’s street-level plans are both inadequate and outweighed by the adverse impacts of a bigger highway. For those reasons and more, Portland’s official walking and biking advisory committees both oppose the project.

“Sometimes it’s the infrastructure we don’t build that makes all the difference,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. “Cities from Dallas to Tampa to Milwaukee have discovered that ditching boondoggle highway projects has opened up new opportunities to build stronger, cleaner and more fiscally sustainable communities.”

The report recommends that Oregon cancel the Rose Quarter widening and other proposed highway projects, and instead invest in more effective transportation solutions, such as road repair and transit expansion.

“Oregon, like the rest of America, still has a misplaced appetite for costly and disruptive highway expansion projects. But if we’re smarter about how we spend our transportation dollars, we can achieve a more sustainable, affordable and better-functioning transportation system,” said Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Transportation Campaign director. “That means avoiding spending hundreds of millions of dollars on harmful, wasteful projects such as the Rose Quarter Widening.”