Portland-area traffic increases stall after Phase 1 uptick

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Statewide, traffic is down an average of 20% from this time last year

A section of the I-5 Rose Quarter corridor, Dec. 10, 2019. (KOIN)

CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — When most Oregon counties moved into Phase 1 reopening, local freeways and highways saw a noticeable uptick in traffic. However, the number of cars on the road has essentially flat-lined since then.

When the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) started looking at traffic levels toward the beginning of the coronavirus response, they saw decreases in the 40% range, spokesman Don Hamilton said. Now, statewide ODOT figures show an average traffic decrease of about 20% from this time last year.

“We’re always expecting kind of ups and downs with this,” Hamilton said. “As things open up we’re expecting more traffic.”

The biggest change in traffic volumes came after more than 30 counties were approved to begin Phase 1 reopening on May 15.

Several rural highways and freeways have already come close to hitting pre-pandemic traffic levels since reopening began. US 395, which runs through Eastern Oregon, came closest the week of June 10, with traffic levels just 5% below 2019 figures.

Despite 26 counties being approved to enter Phase 2, the numbers have remained relatively stagnant since late May. Hamilton credits that largely to the fact that Multnomah County has yet to even enter Phase 1, a step further delayed by Gov. Kate Brown’s “statewide yellow light” on further reopening.

“When Multnomah County opens up we’ll probably see a significant uptick too,” Hamilton said.

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