FRIDAY JUNE 25 UPDATE: HB 3055B has passed the Oregon House, but it’s not too late to email your Senator. They are expected to vote on this bill in the next 48 hours – please drop your Senator a line!!!
HERE’s the official No More Freeways testimony about why HB 3055B is bad fiscal, climate, and transportation policy.
About a month ago, we put out a call-to-action to ask your help to write testimony for the Joint Committee on Transportation to oppose HB 3065, which included language for Speaker Tina Kotek’s ODOT freeway slush fund to write the agency a blank check to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on widening I-205 near Oregon City and I-5 near Wilsonville. Your response was overwhelming, with testimony coming in from all over the state to articulate why you think that the legislature should avoid continuing to feed the beast of the freeway industrial complex. Our efforts got written up in Oregon Public Broadcasting (with some great quotes from SunrisePDX’s Cassie Wilson; check out her new op-ed in BikePortland!)
While HB 3065 died in committee, all of the legislative language that would give ODOT the right to bond against projected future tolling revenue to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to widen I-205 and I-5 in Wilsonville has been snuck into HB 3055. This bill is ODOT’s omnibus legislation for the session, and includes a handful of positive elements like authority for urban counties to set lower speed limits and further policy language for figuring out congestion pricing and tolling.
What’s bad about HB 3055: The bill increases ODOT’s short term borrowing limit from $100 million to $600 million, and allows ODOT to roll over any short term borrowing into long term bonds, and repay those bonds with any available money, including federal money. Combined with other language in the –15 amendment, the net result is that ODOT has been directed to borrow money to cover the unfunded freeway expansion mandates leftover from the 2017 legislative session, and is allowed to back up that borrowing with any money available, and to pledge any and all toll revenue that it might receive from tolling I-5 and I-205, essentially destroying any hope for variable tolls that would drop to zero off-peak, that might be imposed solely for managing traffic.
Instead, any and all toll revenue will be poured into freeway expansion. While the state burns from unseasonably early wildfires, the state legislature could recognize that 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation and that the state simply must immediately invest in public transportation instead of further freeway expansions to hit our carbon emission reduction goals. The legislature could demand that ODOT to fix up deadly orphan highways, invest in frequent train service through the Willamette Valley, give TriMet funds to electrify buses, promote basic road maintenance or give local municipalities the revenue for Safe Routes to School. All of these investments would lower our carbon emissions, reduce air pollution, provide mobility options for the communities who need them the most, and make our streets safer. Instead, the legislature is once again giving ODOT a blank check, this time for two massively large freeway expansions in Clackamas County, as we await to see just how unfathomably terrible our wildfire season will be this summer.
It’s increasingly apparent to us at No More Freeways that a major reason that ODOT continues to aggressively pursue freeway expansions all over the Portland region is that the Oregon Legislature dictates that they do so. While there’s plenty of need for new leadership at the Oregon Transportation Commission, within ODOT’s upper-brass, and other regional and statewide transportation entities like TriMet, the state legislature is the body most responsible for allocating massive sums of money and setting the tone for our climate-arsonist practices of spending billions on freeways instead of directing revenue to transit service, fixing up ODOT’s orphan highways, basic road maintenance, and investing in commuter and high speed rail.
With the legislative session winding down, emailing your legislators about your concerns about the freeway slush fund included in HB 3055 is essentially your last chance to heckle your elected officials about the urgent need to stop widening freeways for almost the next eighteen months.
HB 3055 has been approved by the Oregon House, but still might fail in the Oregon Senate, which is why we need you to contact your Senators today.
If you want to tell your elected officials to turn off the spigot that funds the freeway industrial complex, we need your help.
TELL YOUR LEGISLATOR: OPPOSE HB 3055. NO MORE FREEWAY EXPANSIONS.
We need *you* to contact your State Senator and encourage them to vote NO on HB 3055 until the language for the freeway expansion slush funds are removed. Here’s how you can do that:
If you don’t know your State Senator, use the handy State Capitol website to look up who represents you in Salem. The bill has already passed the Oregon House (kudos to Speaker Tina Kotek, Rep Brad Witt and Rep Wlnsvey Campos for opposing the bill!) but we can still kill it in the Senate.
Step 2: Send them an email!
You don’t have to write an essay, unless you want to. But if you’ve never written your legislator about an important bill, here’s some tips:
- Who are ya? Include your full name, and make explicit that you live in their district and that you’re a constituent (if you feel comfortable, you can say which specific neighborhood you live in)
- Be specific with the bill number: Make sure you mention the bill number you’re opposed to (in this case, HB 3055) in the email header as well as the first 1-3 sentences of your letter.
- Personalize the letter! You don’t have to be a policy expert on the legislation to have an opinion; in fact, for the majority of the people writing in, personal stories and experiences are likely more important to share at this point. If you’re feeling climate anxiety as these wildfires pick up, be sure to mention you’d rather see legislative commitment to greening our transportation system! If you’re furious about ODOT’s abdicated responsibility on the orphan highways, demand that they push for the slush fund money to go towards fixing up 82nd Avenue, TV Highway, Barbur, and McLoughlin and other dangerous roads before we widen other streets. If you are a transportation geek and want to see more money for road maintenance, bike paths, better transit service, high speed rail, commuter rail – share your story! This is our chance to show legislators that every day Oregonians are eager to see leadership on chipping away at the freeway industrial complex – the grey old deal – and investing in a more equitable, sustainable future.
- I am writing you to ask you to vote against HB 3055; climate leaders don’t widen freeways, and I’m concerned this bill gives ODOT a blank check to widen freeways in clackamas county when we instead need to be building a low-carbon transportation system running off of transit, biking and walking.
- Please vote no on HB 3055 – there isn’t a single freeway expansion anywhere in North America that has ever solved traffic congestion, and ODOT’s proposals to spend hundreds of millions on the I-5 Boone Bridge and I-205 Oregon City project are robbing us of the opportunity to invest in better transportation systems that actually address congestion. We don’t know what commuting patterns we will have post-pandemic, and we certainly don’t need to throw away hundreds of millions of bucks on infrastructure that has never solved congestion.
- I don’t believe ODOT should be trusted with the hundreds of millions of dollars in Bond funding that would be allowed until HB 3055. Why should current and future generations be on the hook to pay for these massive freeway expansions that don’t serve their needs and are actively frying the planet that they stand to inherit? Please direct ODOT to spend toll-revenue on fixing up orphan highways, which frequently maim and kill Oregonians biking, walking and driving on these dangerous arterials.
- The state is literally on fire right now – we should probably stop giving ODOT blank checks to widen freeways. Please listen to Sunrise PDX and No More Freeways and vote no on HB 3055 until the ODOT freeway widening slush fund is removed from the omnibus bill.
4. If you don’t mind, feel free to BCC us – we love seeing the letters that you send in! (info at no more freeways pdx dot com)