PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Governor Kate Brown has said “we’re not going to proceed” with the proposed I-5 Rose Quarter Project without the “community support and engagement from the Black and African American community.”
The statement was in response to a reporter’s question after a press briefing Wednesday and follows Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s withdraw of support for the project Tuesday.
The Black-led non-profit Albina Vision Trust also withdrew its support, accusing the Oregon Department of Transportation of failing to make tangible commitments to community revitalization efforts proposed by the organization, which had worked with ODOT for more than two years on the issue.
“It’s my hope that this particular project can be part of righting historic wrongs and I’m committed to bringing people back to the table for that discussion,” Brown said.
The area of lower Albina, where the proposed Rose Quarter project is to take place, will involve a freeway expansion as part of its $500 million traffic improvement plan. During I-5’s original construction in the 1960s, the project razed many neighborhoods in the historically Black district, as well as did other urban renewal projects through the 1970s.
Charles Boyle, a spokesperson for Kate Brown’s office, elaborated on what community involvement they’d like to see for the project.
“Community support and engagement, particular from the Black and African American community, is a crucial part of this project,” Boyle said in an emailed statement to KOIN 6 News.
He added that in light of ongoing economic disruptions, “we will need to take a hard look at all large transportation projects moving forward.”
Brown did not say she is pulling support entirely for the Rose Quarter Project, which was authorized by the Oregon Legislature as part of a large 2017 transportation package.
The ODOT-led project calls for adding auxiliary lanes and shoulders of I-5 between I-84 and I-405, in the interest of reducing congestion. However critics point to concerns of pollution and intrusion into Northeast Portland neighborhoods as a cost outweighing any benefits.
Students from Harriet Tubman Middle School took part in a rally in front of ODOT’s headquarters to protest the project back in December of 2019. Should the expansion go through, the freeway corridor would be even closer to the school, the surrounding areas of which have some of the worst air quality in the country, according to experts.