Highway Critics Say Tolls Could Reduce Rose Quarter Traffic

Several groups skeptical of the Rose Quarter project were mollified by the addition of freeway caps. Environmental advocates remain unconvinced.

WRONG DIRECTION: Highway expansion foes at a 2021 rally against ODOT widening Interstate 5. (Mick Hangland-Skill)

Critics of the billion-dollar-plus project to expand Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter are calling on the Portland City Council to negotiate a better deal with the Oregon Department of Transportation before signing on to an intergovernmental agreement.

They ask the city to postpone a June 22 hearing and subsequent vote and instead require ODOT to prepare a full environmental impact statement that analyzes the option not to expand the highway and instead implement congestion pricing or tolls on that portion of the highway.

While several groups skeptical of the Rose Quarter project were mollified by the addition of freeway caps, environmental advocates remain unconvinced.

“Although ODOT has nominally expressed intent to toll the project area as part of the Regional Mobility Pricing Project, it is clearly dragging its feet, and is more interested in widening the freeway than using pricing to manage demand and reduce traffic and pollution,” states a June 20 memo to the City Council from No More Freeways, Allan Rudwick of the Eliot Neighborhood Association, and Mary Peveto of Neighbors for Clean Air. “It’s worth noting that ODOT’s own consultant studies of road pricing indicated that pricing I-5 would be just as effective in reducing traffic as widening the freeway and could save hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesman Dylan Rivera says: “Everyone agrees that pricing is essential and that it is expected to be in place before the opening of the Rose Quarter project. With the agreement in place, the city will be able to engage and advocate for appropriate environmental study.”

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.