Commentary Tech

The Hidden Rose Quarter MegaFreeway

The Hidden Rose Quarter MegaFreeway

ODOT is admittedly constructing an Eight-lane mega-freeway on the Rose Quarter

You’ll be able to inform from the tortured rhetoric about “auxiliary” lanes that the Oregon Division of Transportation is falling throughout itself to make the freeway widening undertaking it has proposed for the I-5 Rose Quarter space appear completely as small as attainable.  They keep that they’re not truly widening the roadway in any respect, simply including “ramp to ramp connections.”  In actuality, nevertheless, ODOT is engineering a right-of-way that may simply maintain an Eight lane freeway–successfully doubling the dimensions of the present Interstate 5.

How massive is it?

The general public descriptions of the Rose Quarter freeway challenge go to nice lengths to attenuate the dimensions of the challenge.  As we’ve famous the undertaking’s Environmental Evaluation insists that the lanes its including to the I-5 freeway aren’t precise freeway lanes, however are a completely totally different and environmentally benign creature referred to as an auxiliary lane.

However for a second, set-aside all this speak about counting lanes or what they’re referred to as.  How huge a footprint will the widened I-5 freeway have?  That reality is rigorously hid from view in the primary Environmental Evaluation Report, however should you did dig by way of the appendices, you’ll discover one diagram within the undertaking’s Proper-of-Means evaluation that hints on the freeway’s precise footprint.

This chart exhibits a consultant cross part of the I-5 freeway on the Rose Quarter, as presently constructed (prime) and as proposed to be widened by ODOT (backside).  The fantastic print within the backside of every schematic exhibits the variety of ft of width of every lane and of the shoulders.  Within the proposed widening, the full width is about 126 ft.  There are six 12-foot visitors lanes (three in every path, two labeled “through” lanes one labeled “auxiliary”), plus 12 foot shoulders on the left and proper aspect of the visitors lanes.  We assume the median is 5 ft large.  That works out to about 126 ft ((6 *12)+(four*12)+5=126).

When you take a look at that diagram, it appears like there’s numerous area in that 126 ft relative to the dimensions of the illustrated automobiles and vans:  48 ft is devoted to shoulders, which is rather a lot for a busy city freeway constructed on extraordinarily costly land.  (The Proper of Method Report notes that land close to the freeway is value as a lot as  $150 to $200 per sq. foot, and land acquisition for the challenge would require a complete price range of $55 million).

What number of lanes can you slot in a 126-foot proper of approach?

So as an alternative of arguing about what we name lanes, let’s ask a primary query:  What number of freeway lanes can you slot in an city, 126-foot right-of-way?  Properly the reply can simply be discovered by merely wanting on the means the ODOT stripes freeway lanes and shoulders in Portland.  Based on ODOT’s lane report knowledge, this part of the Interstate 84 freeway, simply east of 12th Avenue has Three-foot left shoulders, and 7-foot proper shoulders.  (Freeway 2/Columbia River Freeway is ODOT’s designation for Interstate 84.  LN1 by means of LN3 correspond to journey lanes, LS and RS are left shoulder width and proper shoulder width, with all knowledge introduced in ft.  Knowledge are present for I-84 from NE 12th Avenue to NE 21st Avenue (which corresponds roughly to the world illustrated within the photograph under).

If ODOT have been to easily re-stripe its widened 126-foot Rose Quarter proper of means in precisely the identical style it has striped Interstate 84, lower than a mile away, it might simply match eight full-sized journey lanes within the area it’s planning to construct.  4 12-foot journey lanes (48 ft), plus a Three-foot proper shoulder and a 7-foot left shoulder (10 ft complete shoulders), are equal to 58 complete ft of width.  Permitting for a 5 foot median, this implies an eight lane freeway would use 121 ft ((58*2)+5=121).  As famous above the Environmental Evaluation schematic exhibits 126 ft of complete proper of approach.

Regardless of the protestations that 12 foot left and proper shoulders are “normal,” ODOT’s personal follow–on this actual space–makes it clear that isn’t true. ODOT not solely builds and operates city freeways with narrower shoulders (and consequently extra lanes), the US Division of Transportation holds out these design requirements as a greatest follow for different cities and states to comply with in offering extra freeway capability.

Portland’s I-84, is definitely touted by the US Division of Transportation’s as poster baby for narrower shoulders.  Here’s a web page of the USDOT report, “USE OF NARROW LANES AND NARROW SHOULDERS ON FREEWAYS: A Primer on Experiences, Present Follow, and Implementation Issues.” FHWA HOP-16-060.  The slender shoulders on I-84 are additionally featured on the duvet of the doc.


Construct now, paint later

It’s fairly straightforward to see what’s more likely to occur right here, if this venture is allowed to go forward.  ODOT will widen the fitting of approach and, on opening day, stripe it for six lanes (it is going to in all probability cease calling them auxiliary lanes simply as quickly because it breaks floor).  It is going to let an honest interval (six months or a yr) move, and in all probability, visitors can be simply as dangerous, if not worse than it’s right now.  Then Oregon DOT–which shall be working beneath a brand new director–will word that the earlier administration underestimated the problem on the Rose Quarter, and can “uncover” that there’s truly room to slot in a pair extra journey lanes.  And ODOT will hearth up the paint truck.

All that stands between the proposed Rose Quarter freeway widening venture that’s depicted in pc renderings of the Environmental Evaluation and an Eight-lane freeway is a number of hundred gallons of Federal Spec TTP-1952b visitors marking paint.  A number of hours with a lane-marking machine would primarily double the capability of the present I-5 freeway.  And nothing within the Environmental Evaluation examines what the consequences of such a widening can be, when it comes to added automotive visitors from induced demand, air air pollution and carbon emissions. Which brings us to the Nationwide Environmental Coverage Act (NEPA).  NEPA requires that ODOT disclose the cumulative and affordable foreseeable future penalties of its actions. This provision is designed to stop businesses from breaking down in any other case environmentally vital actions into smaller, much less impactful items that may individually escape evaluate, however which cumulatively would have an effect on the setting.

If striped like I-84, a widened Rose Quarter I-5 might accomodate 4 journey lanes in every path.

In NEPA phrases, the likelihood that the Oregon Division of Transportation might come again, a couple of months or a couple of years after it’s spent $500 million on the concrete and buildings for its 126 foot right-of-way, and easily restripe the freeway so as to add capability, is “fairly foreseeable.”  That signifies that fairly than simply wanting on the venture with stripes as proposed, the Environmental Evaluation ought to current the possible penalties of constructing a street that would simply accomodate another full journey lane than it has thought-about.  Alternatively, the Environmental Evaluation ought to take a look at the choice of constructing a narrower bodily right-of-way.  The freeway proper of approach could possibly be a minimum of 20 ft narrower–and all the bodily impacts of widening on the group, together with land takings (particularly onto the location of Tubman Center Faculty), could possibly be decreased, whereas attaining the identical visitors circulate that ODOT has claimed is required.  Contemplating simply this type of various is strictly what the NEPA course of is designed to do.  By treating 12 foot inside and out of doors shoulders as an unquestioned and unquestionable assumption, ODOT has each constructed within the room to simply widen the freeway, and hid the doubtless long-term environmental results of this determination and sidestepped its duty underneath NEPA to think about options that may fairly have smaller environmental impacts.

We’ve been down this street earlier than

However would a state Division of Transportation so overtly and cynically manipulate its environmental disclosures to cover its true intent?  Certainly, if it actually needed to widen I-5 to eight lanes via the Rose Quarter ODOT it will degree with the general public, wouldn’t it?

In reality, the Oregon Division of Transportation has a demonstrated monitor report of concealing the precise variety of lanes it plans to construct when it widens freeways, and particularly, the Interstate 5 freeway in Portland. Within the Ultimate Environmental Impression Assertion of the Columbia River Crossing, issued in 2011, ODOT was all the time cautious to discuss with the brand new bridge and widened freeway it was proposing as having 10 lanes, 5 lanes in every course.

On paper, this was a discount from the 12-lane bridge and freeway put ahead within the undertaking’s Draft Environmental Impression Assertion (DEIS), issued in 2008.  After the issuance of the DEIS, the Metropolis of Portland and different regional leaders sought to scale back the undertaking’s environmental influence by decreasing the variety of proposed vehicle lanes.  In 2010, at Mayor Sam Adams request, the Venture Sponsors Council for the CRC directed ODOT to scale back the variety of lanes on the CRC from 12 lanes to 10.  Let’s flip the microphone over Oregon Public Broadcasting‘s Kristian Foden-Vencil:

Leaders of cities, ports and transportation districts round Portland, agreed Monday on key elements of a brand new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River. They agreed the brand new Columbia River Crossing should be 10 lanes large — not 12. . . .  Portland Mayor Sam Adams, referred to as the vote a big step ahead.
“Portland-Space Leaders Agree On Features Of New I-5 Bridge” OPB Information, August 9, 2010

ODOT dutifully complied with this course. When the challenge’s remaining environmental influence assertion (FEIS) was launched, all of the references have been to five lanes.  However the doc and all its appendices had been rigorously purged of any references to the precise bodily width of the construction they have been going to construct.  Right here’s the illustration of the freeway bridge’s cross-section from the venture FEIS.  The CRC was to include two parallel, double-decker bridges, with the freeway carried on the highest deck. The FEIS exhibits 5 journey lanes on every construction–for a complete of ten.  Three lanes in every path are labeled “by means of” lanes, and two lanes labeled “add-drop” lanes–an earlier model of ODOT’s Orwellian naming conventions).  Discover that this diagram lacks any dimensions, and carries the cryptic disclaimer “To not scale.”

Columbia River Crossing, Last Environmental Influence Assertion, web page S-19.

To not scale, certainly. It took a Freedom of Info Act request to get the Oregon Division of Transportation to disgorge the cross-sectional schematics displaying  the bridge profile with precise dimensions.  They confirmed the bridge was going to be constructed to precisely the identical bodily width as initially proposed.  This diagram exhibits an in depth up view of a cross-section of one of many two spans; the deck is angled barely because of the horizontal curvature of the bridge because it crosses the river.  The deck of every of those two bridges is 90 ft edge-to-edge, 180 ft broad in all–sufficient room for six 12 foot journey lanes and 18 ft of freeway shoulders–precisely what ODOT included within the DEIS.  So whereas it performed up the proposal’s five-lane paint scheme, ODOT charged forward with hid plans to construct precisely the identical bodily construction as earlier than.

CRC Bridge Cross Part Schematic, (Public Document Request #D00482).

Then, simply as now, ODOT will conspicuously inform the general public and the leaders what they need to hear concerning the variety of lanes, as a method of alleviating environmental considerations, however will then quietly–even secretly–go forward with plans to engineer a construction and proper of method that gives area for the variety of lanes it needs.

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