On Thursday, the state Transportation Department released a preliminary plan for a $500m bus lane that would run on I’ma-99 from northbound Interstate 99 in Portland to South Bend, Indiana.
The project would connect Interstate 99 to I-65, connecting Portland to Interstate 4 in south-central Indiana, then on to Interstate 64 and onto I-70, which then leads to I’me-99.
The project is being billed as a major step forward in expanding access to the region’s booming downtown, and the new project has been backed by a slew of business, transportation and political leaders.
“It’s a big project, it’s big project for all of the different stakeholders,” said Kevin Fong, executive director of the Indiana Business & Technology Association, which is spearheading the effort.
“It’s going to be an incredible thing to bring our businesses and our jobs to this area.
I think it’s going a long way toward providing opportunities for our people.”
Fong and other business leaders said the project would benefit the region in a number of ways, including: • The lanes would provide a faster connection between downtown Portland and the Indiana economy.
• There would be faster connections to Indiana ports.
It also would help alleviate traffic congestion in downtown and South Bend.
In addition to the lanes, the project is expected to cost $8 billion and will require $100 million in state funds.
Construction of the project, called I-4 Connector, is expected be complete by 2019.
A public hearing will be held in March on the project.
For now, however, Fong said that the project has “got some legs” and is expected “to get off the ground by early 2020.”
“The biggest challenge is getting to the point where the infrastructure is sufficient to operate and to get the bus lanes running,” he said.
However, Fongs said the infrastructure for the I-9/I-64 connection is not in place.
Fongs said that there is some hope for I-99 connectivity.
I-94 was constructed in the 1960s to link the city of Seattle to downtown Portland, and is a major corridor for regional travel.
But in 2015, the Portland City Council ordered the state Department of Transportation to reverse the decision to build the lanes.
According to a letter obtained by the Oregonian, the State Transportation Department was concerned that I-49/I69 was a major route for regional transportation.
Now, Fights for the project are being held in Washington, DC and Philadelphia, and transportation advocates have urged the state to approve the project in the coming weeks.
At the same time, FONG said that while there is a lot of excitement about the project right now, there is also concern about the road and bridge that is going to connect I-39 to I69.
That’s where the I’mea-99 bridge is, and Fong told the Portland Tribune that the state DOT is “really close” to getting approval to build a bridge.
While Fong did not specify how many lanes the project could open up, Fonings said that it could be as many as 100.
He said the new bus lane will also help alleviate congestion in southbound I-69, which could reduce travel times for drivers and drivers of other types of vehicles.
Transportation advocates have said that an I-29/I40 link would be the best option, as it would allow traffic to flow along the corridor at a much faster pace than I-95.
Officials are also concerned that construction of the new lanes would increase greenhouse gas emissions, and have warned that it would not be economically viable.
State DOT has already made several requests for proposals to study the I4 Connectors feasibility.
As of Friday, officials have received over 100 proposals for the new I-34/I38 link and the I49/L4 connector, and they have been working on both proposals.
Meanwhile, there has been some criticism of the plan for I39/L70, a major freeway linking the Portland area to the rest of the state.
Supporters of the proposal, including the American Council of Governments, the American Red Cross and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, have called the project a “bipartisan” effort to help alleviate I-79 congestion.
Still, Fons said the plan is a step forward.
“[The project] has been in the works for years, and it’s just a matter of getting to where we want to go and making sure that we’re getting the right infrastructure,” he told the Tribune.
Follow John Sommers @jmsommers.