ROSE QUARTER COSTS SKYROCKET: The expansion of Interstate 5 at the Rose Quarter may cost as much as $795 million, not the $450 million estimated in 2017, when the Legislature passed a bill to fund the project. That nugget comes from a draft of a report due to the Legislature in February. The draft of the Oregon Department of Transportation cost-to-complete report, obtained by WW, pegs the project's price tag at somewhere between $715 million and $795 million, using 2025 as the year the project will be midway through completion. House Bill 2017, passed by the Legislature in 2017, approved $30 million a year in funding for the project beginning in 2022. ODOT says the draft is incomplete, but declined to say whether the projected cost might be higher or lower when the draft is finished.
MEDICAID TRANSPORT COMPANY GOES BUST: The non-emergency transportation system for Oregon Health Plan Medicaid patients in the Portland area plunged into crisis last week. GridWorks, the contractor responsible for about 4,000 rides a day for patients who need to get to medical appointments, was placed into receivership Dec. 18. As WW reported ("Hell on Wheels," Oct. 30, 2019), the Oregon Health Authority, which operates the state's Medicaid system, earlier threatened to yank the license of Health Share, the consortium of local hospital systems that has a monopoly on Medicaid patients in the metro area, because of failures by GridWorks. Health Share promised in November to improve. But on Dec. 18, a judge declared GridWorks insolvent. GridWorks' failure left numerous companies unpaid for November rides and facing an uncertain future. "If we fail, thousands of members of our most vulnerable populations may not be able to get to life sustaining treatments," says Kirk Foster, who owns Wapato Shores, one of the GridWorks' largest contractors. On Dec. 20, Health Share pledged to make the unpaid companies whole.
EUDALY WANTS CONDITIONS ON CONSTRUCTION: City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly says she won't vote for a controversial zoning change next month without countermeasures to protect renters from eviction by developers seeking to build new units. The policy the Portland City Council is considering is called the residential infill project. It would allow up to four units to be built on single-family lots. Eudaly is calling for a "tenant opportunity to purchase," which might require landlords to give tenants 90 days' notice and right of first refusal on a property. She also wants the city to allocate funding to finance construction of backyard cottages and other accessory dwelling units to give middle-class homeowners the means to build. "We have to ensure we're not doing further harm," Eudaly said at a Dec. 11 work session. "That is my biggest fear. That means we have to have meaningful anti-displacement measures in place when we pass RIP."
FRED MEYER LOSES ITS GRIP: Notice anything missing at Fred Meyer? Handles on the paper bags. The Portland-based grocer is telling customers it's the result of a supplier shortage. "The [bags] are only able to be ordered to locations that are near public transportation and/or the clientele walk to our stores due to the decline in supplies from our supplier," a representative wrote to a disgruntled customer on Facebook last week. "In short, if the store currently has handle bags, they will continue to have handle bags, and if they do not, then they will not be able to order them." But that customer tells WW his local store, on North Interstate Avenue, didn't have bags with handles last week, despite being located right next to MAX.
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