Last year, in response to direction from Oregon’s Governor and requests from local project stakeholders, the Oregon Transportation Commission directed the Oregon Department of Transportation to retain a consultant team of local and national urban design, engineering, and environmental experts to conduct an independent assessment of the highway cover designs included in the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project. The concerns and requests from Metro, Multnomah County, City of Portland, Portland Public Schools and Albina Vision Trust shaped the creation of the independent cover assessment process.
The Independent Cover Assessment team’s charge is to create two to three alternate cover scenarios: one scenario that is limited to the National Environmental Policy Act Environmental Assessment Area of Potential Impact (API), one that can be outside the NEPA Environmental Assessment Area of Potential Impact, and a third that can be directed by the Executive Steering Committee. Work Session 2 sought participant feedback to help the Independent Cover Assessment team understand how community participants thought the highway covers could best be configured to deliver restorative justice and enable the development of the Black Historic Albina community’s top programming priorities identified in Work Session 1.
Five concept scenarios were prepared for participants to review and evaluate. The scenarios focused on elements that reduced the freeway interchange impacts on the neighborhood, restored the neighborhood street grid, and moved freeway ramps to create larger, more flexible and more valuable development parcels for community use on and around the cover. These concept scenarios also focused on identifying where contiguous new development parcels could be created to provide a more cohesive neighborhood canvas to support the community’s programming priorities as identified in Work Session 1. The main goals for Work Session 2 were for participants to rank the concept scenarios based on which scenarios they felt provided the greatest potential to deliver community benefits and restorative justice for the Black Historic Albina community. Their responses are summarized in this document, as well as their preferences for which cover scenarios should be carried forward for further feasibility study and evaluation by the Independent Cover Assessment team for Work Session 3.
Work Session 2 consisted of two community workshops on April 15 and 17, one abbreviated workshop with ODOT’s Historic Albina Advisory Board on April 27, and one abbreviated workshop with the Executive Steering Committee on April 26. At these workshops, the five preliminary cover scenarios were presented and participants were asked to provide feedback on how well they thought each scenario performed against the community wealth, health, cohesion and mobility goals developed in Work Session 1. The concept scenarios were also evaluated against the outcomes included in the Development Assessment Framework created by the Independent Cover Assessment team. This evaluation document was created using the Executive Steering Committee’s project values and outcomes, and enhanced to include specific feedback received in Work Session 1 from Black Historic Albina community participants about what benefits and outcomes were most important to them for the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project to deliver on and around the cover.
Participants were also asked to provide feedback on how benefits should be delivered by the project: by providing land, by providing other types of funding and support to the Black Historic Albina community, or by providing some combination of both.
They were also asked to share their thoughts about what kind of governance structure should be established to assume ownership, management, and development responsibilities for the land created on and around the cover so that it ultimately benefits the Black Historic Albina Community and does not merely create additional gentrification and displacement of the Black community as it develops.