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Airport Way Interchange - Background and Frequently Asked Questions

Project History

Congestion at the Airport Way interchange has been recognized as a problem for the region since 1998, when the issue was documented in the Airport Area Transportation Study conducted for development of the Airport MAX. The need to relieve eastbound and westbound Airport Way traffic accessing I-205 north was subsequently confirmed by the 2000 Portland International Airport Master Plan, the 2002 Portland International Center Conditional Use Permit and the 2005 Cascade Station/Portland International Center Environmental Assessment (EA).

In April 2006, ODOT and the Port of Portland signed a formal agreement to work together to address the congestion issue and construct an appropriate solution by the end of 2014. Construction of this project will begin in early 2013 and be complete by the end of 2014.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  What is the problem at the Airport Way Interchange?
A:  The Airport Way interchange provides an important connection for air travelers and the movement of regional goods. During the evening commute there is more traffic getting on I-205 northbound here than at any other location in Oregon.  This demand can result in significant congestion on Airport Way and on the surrounding streets. This congestion not only impacts commuters but also negatively affects airport traffic, freight and commercial traffic.  Without a fix, congestion will only get worse in the future as demand at this location grows over time with the continued growth in Clark County, the airport, and the retail/commercial spaces near the airport. 

Q:  Why is the Federal Aviation Administration concerned about this interchange?
A:  In 2006, per federal law, the FAA required the Port to conduct an Environmental Assessment (EA) to look at the possible impacts of growth at the Portland International Center, the 458-acre mixed-use business area located on airport property. Through the EA process, the FAA requires that new development does not worsen problems on existing roads. Traffic studies have shown since 1999 that the Airport Way Interchange, like many in the region, would be overloaded as the surrounding area develops. Results from the EA confirmed this, and the FAA is requiring that the Port and ODOT pursue a fix for traffic going from Airport Way to northbound I-205 by 2014.

Q:  How is this project going to address the problem?
A:  ODOT and the Port have collaborated with community stakeholders and affected agencies and jurisdictions to examine the extent of the interchange problem, identify alternative solutions, and select a preferred alternative. 

The preferred alternative will create a new free-flowing right-turn ramp from westbound Airport Way to northbound I-205. As a result, eastbound drivers turning left to I-205 north at the intersection will have two turn lanes and no longer will have to share signal time with westbound to northbound right-turning vehicles.This will reduce the traffic queue from right-turning traffic that regularly blocks left-turning vehicles from entering the northbound ramp.
 
Before entering I-205, the new ramp will merge with the existing ramp carrying traffic from the eastbound to northbound left turn. During periods of heavy traffic, these ramps will be controlled by meter signals located just south of the point where the two ramps come together. During metered operation, electronic signs will advise drivers on the left-turn ramp to form two lanes at the ramp meter. So as not to negatively affect traffic flow on I-205, the meters will let one vehicle at a time proceed from the two ramps, forming one lane of traffic that is then added to I-205 at the south end of the Glenn Jackson Bridge.

Q:  Will this project affect my access and travel time to and from the Portland Airport?
A:  Yes, depending on your route when Airport Way is congested. Leaving the airport, your travel time will be shorter. Traveling to the airport using Airport Way through the interchange, your travel time will be shorter.

Q:  Will this project affect congestion on I-205?
A:  The purpose of this project is to reduce congestion on Airport Way, but not specifically to address I-205 congestion. The FHWA and ODOT require that any project solution protect people’s ability to use I-205.

Q:  Could a fix to local roads address the problem rather than spending money on the interchange?
A:  The project considered local system fixes to the extent that they help to address the congestion on Airport Way related to I-205 northbound access. Prior to this study, the Port, PDC, ODOT and private developers have funded a number of improvements to relieve congestion in this area, including:

  • Widening Airport Way from NE 82nd Avenue to I-205.
  • Extending Alderwood Road, connecting 82nd Avenue and Holman Road.
  • Re-striping the on-ramp at the Airport Way/I-205 northbound interchange.
  • Improving NE 122nd Avenue/Airport Way, NE 82nd Avenue/Alderwood Road, and Cornfoot Road/Alderwood Road. 
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Q:  Does this project support expansion of the Portland Airport?
A:  This project is not tied to or required as part of an airfield or terminal improvement or expansion. The project would support the Portland International Center (PIC), a 458-acre mixed-use business area located on airport property.

Over the years, the Portland International Airport has attracted an increasing number of travelers passing through or coming to the region. As the region’s only international airport for Oregon and SW Washington, the airport will continue to grow to accommodate the needs of the region – for residents, visitors and the economy.

Q:  Is this improvement project being proposed to support redevelopment of Cascade Station and the new IKEA store?
A:  The purpose of this project is to address the traffic congestion that was first forecasted in 1998. At that time, the Port did a transportation study to support light rail extension to the airport.  The study indicated that the intersection of Airport Way and the northbound I-205 ramp would become a problem before 2015.  The study assumed regional growth-related traffic as well as future development in the Airport Way Urban Renewal Area and in Portland International Center due to the extended light rail. In 2006, IKEA opened in Cascade Station, which is within the Portland International Center. 
 
Links to web pages of related regional projects and additional background information: