No More Freeways was founded in 2017 in response to the passage of legislation funding massive freeway expansions around the Portland Metro region. We are an all-volunteer, community-funded 501c(3) organization working to oppose freeway expansions within Portland’s urban growth boundary. Our work has been featured in Willamette Week, the Oregonian, CityLab, VICE, and the New York Times.
We believe that freeway expansion is an atrocious way to spend public resources in the 21st century. Freeway expansion has never solved traffic congestion, perpetuates existing racist transportation and land use decisions from the last century, significantly contributes to air pollution, and creates surprisingly few family-wage jobs per dollar spent. Furthermore, 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation, and it’s simply impossible to reduce greenhouse gases without fundamentally reshaping our communities to make it easier to travel around the region without an automobile.
Freeways are also massively expensive, and their exorbitant price tags rob our city, region and state of the funding necessary to build better bus lanes, fix potholes, and invest in ODOT’s “orphan highways” that frequently harm and kill Oregonians biking, walking and driving. Building a transportation system that connects walkable communities with frequent, reliable, and accessible transit represents the “Green New Deal” for transportation planning, whereas the status quo – the “Grey Old Deal” – is literally poisoning our communities. The time, space, and resources we allocate to expanding freeways directly limits our ability to build the safe, modern, clean, and just transportation system that Oregon needs.
We emphatically agree that traffic sucks – this is why we oppose freeway expansion. Due to a well-documented phenomenon known as “induced demand,” adding more lanes of freeway merely encourages more people to drive, creating more traffic. The only policy initiative that has ever had a demonstrable impact on reducing congestion is congestion pricing. We hope to see regional leaders promote a deliberate, community-minded approach to road pricing before acquiesce to letting ODOT spend billions of dollars on a twentieth century solution to a twenty-first century problem. Congestion pricing, if drafted appropriately, can be equitable, cost-effective, and reduce carbon-emissions; expanding an urban freeway at a time in which 40% of Portland’s carbon emissions come from transportation can be none of these things. No More Freeways ardently supports congestion pricing as a mechanism to minimize congestion as opposed to tolling as a mechanism to maximize revenue; while there are good faith concerns about equitable implementation, there’s research suggesting the policy can be optimized to support the transportation needs of frontline communities. Unfortunately, ODOT is attempting to direct revenue from tolling towards their massive freeway projects – expansions that wouldn’t be necessary if congestion pricing was implemented in the first place. It’s frustrating that ODOT continues to move forward with proposed freeway expansions without even studying if congestion pricing alone would be enough to reduce congestion; the agency is simply afraid that doing so would counter their narrative that these multi-billion freeway expansions are necessary.
We’ve predominantly focused on stopping the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion, a $1.4 billion, 1.8 lane-mile expansion of Interstate 5 through the Albina Neighborhood in North Portland, between the Fremont Bridge (I-405) and the Banfield Freeway (I-84). This proposal would widen the freeway even closer into the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School. No More Freeways has turned out community opposition at local, regional, state and national levels of government, and we filed lawsuits against ODOT with Neighbors for Clean and and the Eliot Neighborhood Association in 2021. We’ve also filed public records requests to catch the agency repeatedly lying or hiding from the public crucial details of their proposed expansion, including basic facts like the proposed width of the freeway. We are huge admirers of the Albina Vision Trust, who are working to heal the Albina neighborhood from the urban renewal and freeway expansion of a previous century that destroyed the largest Black neighborhood in the state of Oregon. No More Freeways has consistently supported calls for capping the freeway with land strong enough for new community growth. No More Freeways points to ODOT’s own consultants’ documents suggesting these buildable caps would be cheaper to build, healthier for the community, and capable of holding larger buildings by maintaining I-5 at its existing width. We also stand in support with the King Elementary School and Tubman Middle School families concerned about once again being displaced to make room for a proposed freeway expansion through this historically Black neighborhood.
We’ve also been tracking the numerous other proposed freeway expansions around the region and state, including the proposed Interstate Bridge Freeway Expansion, the proposed expansion of I-205 west of Oregon City, and the proposed Boone Bridge Expansion. We have organized campaigns opposing continued funding of freeway expansions through protests, oral and written testimony in the state legislature and the Oregon Transportation Commission, and demanding widespread reform of ODOT for climate action.
No More Freeways is also a huge supporter of the Youth Vs ODOT climate strikes, in which teenagers with Sunrise Movement PDX hosted biweekly strikes outside ODOT demanding reforms for climate justice. These youth climate leaders bring impeccable moral clarity and urgency to the necessity of reforming ODOT to divest from freeway expansion and divert resources to infrastructure that demonstrably reduces our state’s carbon pollution. Electrification may be the future of cars, but cars aren’t necessarily the future of transportation. While we fully support efforts to electrify automobiles, electrification in of itself will not be enough to hit the state’s carbon targets, and reducing car dependency is simultaneously an anti-poverty initiative, a boon for public health, and a job creator. Creating communities free of car dependency creates a more equitable transportation system by investing in options for the 1 in 3 Oregonians who can’t or don’t drive due to age, disability or income.
Check out our advocacy page to learn more about our myriad of efforts to defang Oregon’s freeway industrial complex, and letters we’ve written over the years.
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