Emotional Testimony Offers No Clarity for Rose Quarter Highway Project, Only Fury and Delays

A Portland Public Schools board member says there's only one way the board would drop its opposition.

Interstate 5 in the Rose Quarter. (Misha Ashton Moore)

At an emotional meeting of the Oregon Transportation Commission in Lebanon on Dec. 17, climate activists beseeched commissioners to reconsider the proposed $500 million expansion of Interstate 5 at the Rose Quarter, while organized labor and black construction contractors urged the commission to move full speed ahead.

Rarely have the environment and jobs been so clearly pitted against each other.

The OTC had expected to vote whether to proceed with the project or embark on a lengthy further study, but Gov. Kate Brown effectively ordered the commission to split the baby, and chairman Bob Van Brocklin proposed postponing a decision three months as the state completes additional preliminary work.

Scott Bailey, a member of the Portland School Board, which objects to the project because of its proximity to Harriet Tubman Middle School, told commissioners the only way the board would drop its opposition: relocate Tubman.

"If you want to extend us an offer of $100 million," Bailey said, "then we have something to talk about."

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