PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced on Twitter Tuesday he would be withdrawing his support for the I-5 Rose Quarter Project — a roughly $500 million traffic improvement project for Portland.
Wheeler cited a lack of representation from the communities the project would impact for his reason to pull support.
At every step, I have asked ODOT for specific goals to be met around climate, community, and economic development. Those goals have not been met. Therefore, I am withdrawing my support for the I-5 Rose Quarter Project.— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) June 30, 2020
Wheeler later shared the following statement with KOIN 6:
“Community leadership and involvement is critical at this juncture in the process. With the history of transportation infrastructure dividing communities, it is critical that entities like Albina Vision, which champions restorative justice, equity, and forward thinking – are at the table for this process. At every step, I have asked ODOT for specific goals to be met around climate, community, and economic development. Those goals have not been met. Therefore, I am withdrawing my support.”
In a statement, Winta Yohannes, the managing director of Albina Vision Trust, said despite working with ODOT for more than 2 years, the agency failed to make “tangible commitments.”
“We made this decision to disengage from ODOT today because we refuse to endorse projects or processes that do not align with our commitment to creating a thriving community that centers both Black life and Black prosperity. We extend our gratitude to President Peterson, Mayor Wheeler, Commissioner Eudaly, and Commissioner Vega Pederson for their leadership and look forward to continuing our work together to facilitate the thoughtful redevelopment of lower Albina.”
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly also withdrew her support for the project and resigned from the steering committee.
“This was my desire for quite some time but I was committed to following the lead of community advocates such as Albina Vision Trust hoping we could still achieve some of the really valuable outcomes we were fighting for in this process,” Eudaly told KOIN 6 News. “Today when they announced their decision to withdraw their support I knew it was my time to vocalize my stand as well.”
She thanked Wheeler and the Albina Vision Trust Leadership and added: “If we care about our city and climate, the choice is clear: freeway expansions are not the path forward.”
In the interest of reducing congestion, the Oregon Department of Transportation-led project calls for adding auxiliary lanes and shoulders of I-5 between I-84 and I-405. Critics of the project say added pollution and intrusion into Northeast Portland neighborhoods outweigh the cost.
In December of 2019, students from Harriet Tubman Middle School took part in a rally in front of ODOT’s headquarters protesting the project. The school sits next to the corridor and officials say the areas surrounding the school have some of the worst air quality on the country.