Work Session 3
Last year, in response to direction from Oregon’s Governor and requests from local project stakeholders, the Oregon Transportation Commission directed the Oregon Department of Transportation to retain a consultant team of local and national urban design, engineering, and environmental experts to conduct an independent assessment of the highway cover designs included in the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project. The concerns and requests from Metro, Multnomah County, City of Portland, Portland Public Schools and Albina Vision Trust shaped the creation of the independent cover assessment process.
The Independent Cover Assessment team’s charge was to create two to three alternate cover scenarios: one scenario that was limited to the National Environmental Policy Act Environmental Assessment Area of Potential Impact (API), one that could be outside the National Environmental Policy Act Environmental Assessment Area of Potential Impact, and a third that could be directed by the Executive Steering Committee. The preferred concepts from Work Session 2 were to be further analyzed for cost, constructability and their ability to meet the purpose and need of the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement project goals, and presented to participants for their final ranking in Work Session 3.
Concepts 1, 4 and 5 were selected in Work Session 2 to be further analyzed for cost, constructability and their ability to meet the purpose and need of the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project goals by the Independent Cover Assessment team. Community workshop and online open house participants preferred Concepts 4 and 5 as the scenarios for further study. However, some of the project’s other community stakeholders on ODOT’s Executive Steering Committee, its Historic Albina Advisory Board and its Community Opportunities Advisory Committee preferred Concept 1 because it was the only scenario that would not require additional major Environmental Assessment reevaluations and therefore would minimize any further project delays. It was felt that any major project delays might threaten job and contracting opportunities already planned for the Black community.
In response to this concern, the Independent Cover Assessment team created three hybrid scenarios of the preferred concepts for participants to also consider in Work Session 3. These hybrid concepts focused on elements that would not cause extended delays for the reevaluations of the Environmental Assessment design elements.
The hybrid options maximized other desired community benefits such as reducing the freeway interchange impacts on the neighborhood, restoring the neighborhood street grid and moving some freeway ramps to create larger, more flexible and developable land parcels for community use on and around the highway cover, while reducing some of the potential schedule risks.
The goal of Work Session 3 was to identify the preferred highway cover scenario, cover elements and governance structure that community participants felt should be prioritized for inclusion in the Executive Steering Committee’s highway cover recommendation to the Oregon Transportation Commission. This recommendation was to provide the greatest amount of restorative justice and community benefit for the Black Historic Albina community.
Work Session 3 consisted of two community workshops on June 3 and June 5, 2021, one abbreviated workshop with ODOT’s Historic Albina Advisory Board on June 1, one abbreviated workshop with the Executive Steering Committee on June 7, and an online open house that ran from June 5-20, 2021. At these workshops and in the online open house, the three final cover scenarios and the three hybrid cover scenarios were presented. All participants were asked to rank which concept scenario and which hybrid scenario provided the greatest amount of restorative justice and community benefits to the Black Historic Albina community. They were also asked to indicate whether they supported establishing a new ownership entity that would be responsible for stewarding, planning, implementing and managing the development of the land on the covers and remnant parcels created by the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project for the benefit of the Black Historic Albina community.