We wrote last week about the opportunity to support a forthcoming amendment in support of congestion pricing as a cost-effective, climate-smart, sensible policy alternative to be implemented first before any half-billion dollar freeway expansion.
Unfortunately, since then, Commissioner Dan Saltzman backed down from his draft resolution language back in September. As BikePortland.org reported yesterday,
Just three months ago Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman was seen as a bulwark against the I-5 Rose Quarter project. Since then he has completely backed away from his insistence that congestion pricing be implemented before any lanes are added to the freeway.
Today, No More Freeway Expansions is sending this letter to City Hall asking for a brave City Commissioner to request an amendment to Saltzman’s resolution. We’ve already received 170 signatures in support of our request for the city to consider congestion pricing ahead of freeway expansion. Our letter highlights how ODOT’s current freeway expansion proposals will inevitably be based on outdated data with congestion pricing spurring new traffic patterns, how the equity benefits of congestion pricing are lost with freeway expansion, and how ODOT needs to be held accountable to actually implementing congestion pricing. Our letter concludes:
Our coalition is convinced in the profound shortcomings of this proposed freeway expansion mega-project to bring congestion relief, traffic safety or any other benefits to aggravated regional commuters. With that said, we believe even a sympathetic supporter of the Rose Quarter Expansion proposal would have to see the benefit in the City of Portland adopting a “pricing before expansion” policy as a fiscally-responsible, equitable, and climate-smart approach to addressing congestion on this corridor and throughout the region. There’s no reason to let ODOT continue to advance a solution that requires $450 million of Oregonians’ tax dollars and compromise on our climate, air quality, public health, affordable housing and equity goals when there’s an alternative that is orders-of-magnitude cheaper and demonstrably proven to actually have success addressing congestion. Political leadership can provide the one thing that freeway expansion cannot: a greener, cost-effective transportation system with less gridlock.
We’ve also had some great coverage in Sightline Institute, with an article that highlights why it makes no sense to move forward with freeway expansion without trying congestion pricing first:
Congestion in the I-5 Rose Quarter Freeway is causing pain for drivers. Taxpayers could try one of the following options to try to reduce drivers’ pain:
1. Shell out at least $450 million for a mega freeway expansion. That’s a lot of money, and the project will likely cause other problems like increasing air pollution and climate pollution, and lots of experience (and here and here) says it won’t decrease congestion.
2. Try congestion pricing first. It is proven to reduce congestion, it could also reduce pollution, and the region (possibly subject to legal constraints) could use the revenue to give non-drivers more mobility options. Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) can still expand the freeway later, but by trying congestion pricing first, it could at least re-size the project to address whatever congestion remains after pricing.
3. Pay out the money to expand the freeway, but also try congestion pricing. All the risks and costs of freeway expansion, but with congestion pricing too.
It’s not too late for you to join the 170+ community members who have signed our letter.. Click the green box below and add your comment; we’ll submit it City Hall before our testimony tomorrow.