Frequently Asked

About The Independent Cover Assessment

What was the scope of the Independent Cover Assessment?

The scope of the Independent Cover Assessment was to answer the following questions:

  1. How can this project serve community aspirations for the highway covers and areas immediately adjacent to the highway covers, within the area of potential impact as defined in the Environmental Assessment?
  2. What modifications to the current design and configuration of the highway covers would be needed to reflect a broader community vision for development of the project area?
  3. Are there other architectural and engineering considerations to feasibly promote economic development and growth potential consistent with the Historic Albina community’s vision?

What is the harm that has been caused by gentrification, urban renewal, and building of the I-5 highway facilities?

This area was once a vibrant center of the Black community with housing, small businesses, and activated street fronts. Starting in the 1950s, a series of urban renewal projects displaced, often through eminent domain, Black residents and businesses.

  • In the mid-1950s, land was taken and cleared through eminent domain to build the Memorial Coliseum, displacing the Black community further north into N/NE Portland.
  • In the mid-1960s, the construction of the I-5 freeway cut a path through the middle of the Historic Albina Neighborhoods, including the Rose Quarter, causing additional displacement of Black residents and businesses.
  • In the early 1970s, Emanuel Hospital and the City of Portland cleared several blocks of homes and businesses around the hospital, using eminent domain, to expand the hospital’s campus. This third urban renewal event displaced and further scattered the nucleus of the Black business community that had been relocated and had created a center of community life.

black and white image of the historic neighborhood around Broadway and Weidler transitioning to empty land and then to large scale development and parking lots

Community activist groups worked to improve the quality of life in the N/NE neighborhoods on all fronts over the next quarter-century and had some measure of success, evidenced by the residential housing market becoming more viable and attractive by the 1990s. However, this newly found marketability soon created additional waves of displacement for Black residents and businesses who lived and worked in the area, slowly gentrifying N/NE Portland neighborhoods, and pushing rents and home prices out of reach for many Black Portlanders by 2010.

Despite all the public actions that have dismantled and scattered Portland’s Black community across the metro area over the last 70 years, N/NE Portland remains the most viable cultural and emotional hub for many Black Portlanders who were born and raised here and remember having a community, and a place that represented Black cultural identity. Most of the historic Black churches, Black social justice organizations, and the largest Black social service agencies are still anchored in N/NE Portland, despite the displacement of many Black residents, and there is still a strong desire in many segments of the Black community to revitalize Historic Albina as a cultural center for Portland’s Black community.

The Independent Cover Assessment can help to right these past wrongs by elevating the voices of Black Portlanders and communities of color to ensure that the benefits of the highway cover scenarios deliver benefits prioritized by this historically impacted community.

Background On Independent Cover Assessment Project

What is a highway cover?

A highway cover is a concrete and steel platform that spans over the street that lies below it. Highway covers mitigate sound, air quality, and aesthetic impacts in a neighborhood while creating more usable area for development of buildings, active public realm spaces, and surface street facilities than are available today. In the future, highway covers might help one experience the neighborhood as being continuous across the freeway and not divided by it. With community input, the project team explored options, such as housing, assembly spaces, cultural facilities and features, food carts and storefront commercial space for Black/BIPOC businesses, public art, community gardens, pocket parks, and other activities and spaces in the design scenarios.

Two examples of highway covers, one is labelled Klyde Warren Park and shows a park built on top of a highway; the other is labelled Fenway Center and shows multi-story buildings built on top of a highway.

Two examples of highway covers, one is labeled Klyde Warren Park and shows a park built on top of a highway; the other is labeled Fenway Center and shows multi-story buildings built on top of a highway.


Why are you building highway covers?

Completing the proposed improvements for the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project requires removing and rebuilding the bridges crossing over the highway. The project will build new highway covers to provide additional area for potential development of buildings, active public realm spaces, and space for larger pedestrian sidewalks, separated bike lanes, and roads. The new covers will include seismic upgrades, making the structures more resilient in the event of an earthquake. The new covers are also intended to reconnect the two sides of this historic Albina neighborhood above the highway and provide activation in ways that acknowledge the Black historic Albina community and support the community’s vision for a revitalized Albina/Rose Quarter neighborhood that extends across the freeway on the covers.

Where are you building highway covers?

The location and dimension of highway covers are to be over I-5 and ultimately defined by the Executive Steering Committee for the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project. ODOT’s original cover design proposed two locations for the highway covers: where the highway crosses over I-5 at Broadway, Williams, and Weidler Streets, and where the highway connects Vancouver Avenue with a new proposed Hancock/Dixon Street crossing.

How was the Independent Cover Assessment work independent from the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project work?

The Independent Cover Assessment team was not controlled by Oregon Department of Transportation. Rather it was directed by the Executive Steering Committee, and was contractually obligated to maintain professional independence in our work. The Independent Cover Assessment team was solely responsible for the analyses that were developed and presented to the Executive Steering Committee in June 2021.

The Executive Steering Committee directed the Independent Cover Assessment in public outreach, analyses, and the creation of development scenarios, as well as being responsible for making the final recommendation to the Oregon Department of Transportation regarding the I-5 covers.

For a full description of Independent Cover Assessment independence, see the Final CAP Report Appendix M. Facilitation Needs Assessment, Section 5.C. ICA Team Independence.



What is the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project?

The highway covers are one of six key elements of the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project. This project also adds auxiliary lanes and shoulders to reduce congestion and improve safety on the I-5 north-south main highway and redesigns the multimodal local street network above the highway. The I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project will smooth traffic flow on I-5 between I-84 and I-405, where three interstate exchanges intersect and feature the biggest traffic bottleneck in Oregon. The project is also intended to improve community connections by redesigning overpasses, reconnecting neighborhood streets, enhancing public realm spaces, and promoting economic development and wealth creation opportunities on and around the covers. The project’s transportation improvements allow the City to implement the development goals for the N/NE area and realize the City’s Central City 2035 Plan. Visit ODOT’s I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project website to learn more.

About Online Open Houses

How do I access the Online Open Houses and review the survey questions and responses?

To review materials for each of the Independent Cover Assessment team’s Online Open Houses, or to learn more about the responses received, please visit the Open House page.

What happened in the Online Open Houses?

Online Open Houses featured a dynamic and interactive collection of presentations and materials that explored the various steps of creating a vision for the revitalized Albina/Rose Quarter neighborhood. Input gathered from Online Open Houses helped determine the most important outcomes for the highway covers to achieve; allowed the public to review and evaluate the various design scenarios that the Independent Cover Assessment team created; and created a process to rank the final highway cover design and development scenarios that were proposed for consideration. At each step of the work, during the defined Online Open House periods, attendees were asked to review materials and participate in one or more surveys that identified their preferred options.

Which communities were the focus of the Independent Cover Assessment’s community engagement efforts?

There were three primary target community engagement groups for the Independent Cover Assessment team’s work.

  • The historic Albina community (past and present) and the immediate neighborhoods around the project area of potential impact (present).

ICA Communities

  • The local businesses and other non-profit and government stakeholders who are located and/or have operations in the project area or the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • The larger area of the City and region where community members have connections to the historic Albina community and/or who visit and travel through the Albina/Rose Quarter neighborhood.

How else was input provided?

In addition to Online Open Houses, the Independent Cover Assessment team solicited input from historic Albina community members and stakeholders through a series of community work sessions. The community work sessions helped generate feedback that informed the goals and outcomes for the desired cover scenarios and provided needed feedback on the implementation strategies needed to shape the Executive Steering Committee’s final recommendation to the Oregon Transportation Commission. The materials and collective feedback from these sessions are included in Work Session summary materials.

What happened once the work sessions were over? How did the Independent Cover Assessment team make a final recommendation?

In June 2021, based on input from community Work Sessions and Online Open Houses, the Independent Cover Assessment team provided the community’s preferred highway cover development options to the Executive Steering Committee. Following additional input from the Historic Albina Advisory Board, the Executive Steering Committee will make a final recommendation to the Oregon Transportation Commission in the fall of 2021.



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Further Questions?

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