Rose Quarter project is one of nation’s biggest highway boondoggles, environmental watchdogs say

Andrew Theen

Oregon’s proposal to widen Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter is one of the nation’s 9 worst highway boondoggles, according to a report from two nonprofit environmental think tanks released Tuesday.

The proposed roughly $500 million project to add merging lanes and shoulders to I-5 on a one-mile stretch of freeway between two other interstates is a mega-project that won’t fix traffic woes, won’t make the area safer for motorists, and will damage the environment, according to the report from the Frontier Group and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. The organizations are nonprofit think tanks that focus on financial oversight, both frequently work ob environmental issues.

“In Portland, a city that has taken great strides toward more sustainable transportation, an expensive highway project would constitute a step backward to the car-dependent policies of the past,” the report said of the Rose Quarter proposal. “It would also likely fail to meaningfully improve safety compared with other investment strategies.”

The 42-page report highlights proposed freeway projects in North Carolina, Texas, California, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia as emblematic of a worrisome trend of mega-expansions that “absorb billions of dollars of scarce public funds while delivering few benefits.” The report estimates the 9 projects named total $25 billion and will saddle the states with additional debt “while likely failing to achieve meaningful transportation goals.”