House Bill 3065 is a bad bill that would dramatically hurt our ability to solve traffic congestion, reduce carbon emissions, and rob us of money we need for other urgent transportation priorities across the state of Oregon. The crappy legislation, pushed by Speaker Tina Kotek, received a chilly reception in March (OPB has a great run-down of the previous meeting), and this weekend we learned that the bill has new amendments that will be getting a hearing in front of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation this Tuesday morning at 8am. We need your help pushing back against letting Speaker Kotek give ODOT a mammoth, unaccountable freeway expansion slush fund we’ll pay for for decades.
About the bill:
The -8 Amendments of House Bill 3065 aims to institute a large tolling program that ODOT would spend the next couple decades bonding against to build billions of dollars of freeway expansions at the Rose Quarter, the Abernethy Freeway Expansion in Oregon City, and the Boone Bridge Freeway Expansion near Wilsonville. Future generations will be paying off the debts of these massive expansions for decades, as well as paying for the project with worse air pollution and higher carbon emissions, all for a couple of additional lanes of freeway that won’t fix congestion. While there are a few technical improvements on the -8 Amendment language that wasn’t present in the -5 Amendemtn introduced two months ago, the fundamental crux of the bill remains abysmal – ODOT is broke, and instead of raising revenue to build infrastructure to prepare for climate change, to manage traffic congestion, to reduce air pollution or address the dozens of yearly traffic fatalities on ODOT’s roads – ODOT just wants billions for more freeways that solve none of these problems and actively make them worse.
Why we’re opposed to HB 3065:
While there are a few minor improvements in policy language in this -8 Amendment over the -5 Amendments introduced in March, we categorically reject that there is any sane or rational reason to move forward with spending billions of dollars on freeway expansions in the region in 2021, and any legislator supporting this bill needs to reckon with the legacy of a warmer planet, unsafe streets, air pollution, and lack of accessible public transportation they are leaving for future generations by supporting this bill.
We need faster commutes, not freeway congestion – There isn’t a single freeway expansion anywhere in North America that has solved traffic congestion by adding additional lanes. Thanks to the well-understood concept of induced demand, we now know that all three of these freeway widening projects will not get trucks or commuters out of a traffic jam – it’ll merely make them miserable during years of road construction only to have the roads fill up with traffic the day that new lanes are opened. No More Freeways has also repeatedly caught ODOT blatantly lying about the traffic projections included in the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion – hell, they lied so bad in the traffic projections that we sued them over it. No one voting for this bill should be under the impression this will provide any long term solution to traffic congestion. The only way to reduce traffic congestion is to implement congestion pricing; unfortunately, ODOT is not pursuing congestion pricing (which works to minimize traffic jams) and instead pursuing tolling (which works to maximize revenue raised, a mechanism they need to raise the money for these massively oversized expansion projects).
It’s a blank check for fossil fuel infrastructure – 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation. Even under the rosiest of predictions for vehicle electrification, Oregonians simply must reduce the number of miles they drive as the state grows if we want to have a shot of hitting our emission reduction targets. We need to use the roads we already have better, not add more – and we instead need to be investing in public transportation, walkable communities, high speed rail, intercity buses, and maintaining existing roads.
Have you been paying attention to ODOT lately? It’s been a rough month for the Oregon Department of Transportation. Between the outcry on the traffic fatalities on 82nd Avenue, the horrific images of clearcutting wildfire lands in the Cascades, and their continued tomfoolery with the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion (more on that below) – why do a bunch of legislators trust this agency with billions of dollars of freeway projects that aren’t anywhere close to shovel-ready? There’s undeniably massive cost overruns, slights-of-hands, overpromising and under-delivering ahead for ODOT on these mega projects. The agency is fundamentally incapable of transparency, accountability, or pushing policy that meets any conservation, equity, or mobility goals other than handing out massive construction contracts to asphalt, automobile, oil, and freight lobbyists. ODOT has so many other priorities in need of desperate funding – why should we give them a slush fund for more freeways?
Rose Quarter project is imperiled – why is Speaker Kotek dumping more money into it? Anyone who has followed No More Freeways in the past couple years knows about the utter shitshow this proposed expansion has been (you can read our March 2021 letter to legislators about the Rose Quarter). The continued cost escalations, the public records showing ODOT was lying about the width of the freeway, the hidden plans to move the freeway even closer to Harriet Tubman Middle School, the community leaders who walked away from the project in protest of ODOT’s abysmal community outreach last summer… it goes on and on. The Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion is an absolute disaster currently facing two lawsuits and continued skepticism from a litany of youth climate activists, transportation and racial justice advocates, and public health leaders pushing for a full Environmental Impact Statement. Given the headlines over the past couple years, why on earth would any legislator want to write ODOT a blank check to continue squandering money on this project?
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN SUBMIT TESTIMONY:
House Bill 3065 and the -8 Amendment are getting a hearing in front of the Joint Committee on Transportation on Tuesday, May 10 at 8am. You can write to the Joint Committee on Transportation in opposition to the bill – feel free to use any of our talking points above, or share why you want to see the Oregon Legislature fund sidewalks, crosswalks, high speed rail, bike lanes, frequent bus service, electrified buses, charging stations for automobiles, intercity bus service, or basic road maintenance ahead of committing future generations to paying for these ghastly freeway expansions that are nothing short of climate arson. Share your personal story – are you worried about climate change? Angry that ODOT doesn’t have any money to fix 82nd Avenue or TV Highway because they dump it all on freeways? Concerned about air pollution near Harriet Tubman Middle School? Share your story, and make sure the elected officials hear from you on why it’s their duty and responsibility to push back on ODOT and the freeway industrial complex.
You’re welcome to join No More Freeways, Sunrise PDX, and a handful of other transportation justice advocate in providing oral testimony on Tuesday morning as well. Information on how to do so is here.
You can also watch the live stream of the Tuesday morning testimony here.
Written testimony due to the Oregon Legislature by 8am on Wednesday, May 12. We encourage you to also email your testimony to your legislator as well.