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U.S. Dept. of Transportation Lauds Investments in Portland

Wed May 29, 2024 - West Edition #11

USDOT Acting Undersecretary for Transportation Policy Christopher Coes makes comments at the media event.
Photo courtesy of ODOT
USDOT Acting Undersecretary for Transportation Policy Christopher Coes makes comments at the media event.

The Oregon Department of Transportation, the city of Portland and the Albina Vision Trust hosted the U.S. Department of Transportation's Acting Undersecretary for Transportation Policy Christopher Coes and Director of the Departmental Office of Civil Rights Irene Marion to celebrate $488 million in federal funding for two northeast Portland infrastructure projects.

Coes and Marion serve as co-leads for all USDOT equity initiatives and play a central role in the federal Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods grant program, a product of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. In March, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $3.33 billion in grant awards for 132 locally led projects that reconnect communities. ODOT was awarded $450 million for the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project and the Portland Bureau of Transportation received $38 million for the Broadway Main Street & Supporting Neighborhood Connections project.

These two projects have been designed in collaboration with the community to reconnect lower Albina, the heart of Portland's Black community that was severed by the original construction of Interstate 5 in the 1960s. At the event, representatives from USDOT said that the partnerships and community leadership behind these projects have created a national blueprint for federal funding.

"[The I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project] is the largest Reconnecting Communities project funded by the Department of Transportation," said Coes, recognizing the significance of this investment. He went on to describe the project as "transformational" because of the community vision led by the Albina Vision Trust and the partnerships at the local, state, and federal levels.

Selected by USDOT from more than 600 applications from every state in the U.S., these grant awards are an important step in realizing the vision of reconnecting neighborhoods, improving the transportation network and taking part in a collective movement toward restoring the historic Albina community. It has taken conversations with the community, partnership building and hard work to bring the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement project to this point, better positioned to head to construction.

Community leaders and the Historic Albina Advisory Board joined the event, along with State Representative Tawna Sanchez, Mayor Ted Wheeler, City Commissioner Mingus Mapps, Portland Trail Blazers President of Business Operations Dewayne Hankins, ODOT Director Kris Strickler and Oregon Transportation Commissioner Alicia Chapman.

"Most of us are emotional about this," said James Posey, member of the Historic Albina advisory board that advises the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project. "It goes deeper than the brick and mortar we're talking about — it's the love for our community, the vision. This vision is more than a vision. It's a dream come true."

The $450 million grant awarded to ODOT is the largest in the history of the agency and it was the largest amount awarded through the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant program this year across the country. Funds will go toward finishing design and constructing the core part of the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project's highway cover to support community reconnection, new community space and future development opportunities for the Albina community.

For the city of Portland, the $38 million federal grant provides the funds PBOT needs to transform N/NE Broadway by building wider sidewalks, better pedestrian crossings, more street trees, better street lighting, safer bike lanes and other elements that can reconnect lower Albina to downtown, the Rose Quarter, and other destinations.

Over the next few years, ODOT, the city of Portland, Albina Vision Trust and the community will continue to work together to build these projects to support and reconnect a thriving Albina neighborhood.

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