It’s that time of year again! This year, our grassroots effort to stop ODOT’s proposed freeway expansions put thousands of hours of volunteer labor into empowering youth climate leaders, uplifting freeway fighters into national conferences and publications, filing and winning lawsuits slowing ODOT, collaborating with elected officials and local advocacy organizations, and leading the charge against the wasteful spending of billions of dollars on toxic, polluting, climate-destroying infrastructure.
Here’s a run down of the top accomplishments against the freeway industrial complex in 2022:
Legal Fights: No More Freeways 2, ODOT 0 (for now)
In 2021, No More Freeways filed two lawsuits against ODOT’s proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion – one using the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), and another challenging ODOT in state court via the Local Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). The federal government withdrew their Finding of No Significant Impact in January, and ODOT withdrew their findings of local compatibility in April. These are crucial approvals that ODOT needs to proceed with their proposed freeway expansion. For the second time this year, local neighborhood advocates dared ODOT to defend their proposed expansion in a court of law, and faced with a moment of potential accountability the agency instead retreated to avoid public scrutiny. Despite the agency’s continued arrogance and bluster, these legal results are further proof that ODOT is simply unprepared to be held accountable by community leaders demanding clean air, safer streets and climate action.
ODOT has a new revised Environmental Assessment document out for review right now – you can join us in demanding ODOT conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement.
One Year of Youth Vs ODOT
YouthVSODOT started in April 21 with a half dozen climate activists standing outside ODOT’s downtown Portland headquarters to protest freeway expansions. In 2022, YouthVsODOT continued to grow, drawing the attention of elected officials including State Senator Akasha Lawrence-Spence, Beaverton City Councilors Kevin Teater and Nadia Hasan, Representatives-Elect Hoa Nguyen and Anessa Hartman, TriMet Board Member Kathy Wai, and Portland transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. The Portland Youth Climate Strike also listed the Oregon Department of Transportation as one of four “climate villains”, and carried numerous signs calling out ODOT on the May climate strike which featured thousands of Oregonians.When President Biden visited Oregon in April, Youth Vs ODOT held a rally at Tubman that was covered by numerous local television outlets.
It’s hard to overstate the impact that this biweekly strike has had on changing the conversation about freeway expansions, locally and nationally. Their laser-sharp focus on ODOT’s climate arson has put the agency on the defensive on their emissions, and inspired numerous community leaders and elected officials to begin to pay attention to the disastrous implications of allowing ODOT to move forward with the continued status quo expansion of spending billions on freeways instead of investing in safer streets and public transit.
YouthVsODOT’s Adah Crandall was featured in Willamette Week as one of “five people with ideas for a fractured city,” and also penned an op-ed in the Oregonian this May pleading for adults to get involved with the youth climate movement. Adah and Sunrise’s Cassie Wilson also garnered national attention this year, with glowing write-ups in both VICE and Bloomberg’s CityLab. While the biweekly rallies ended this summer, the youth climate leaders with Sunrise are helping co-host our People’s Public Hearing on January 3rd, and are gearing up to help push for green transportation policy in the upcoming 2023 Oregon Legislative session.
Freeway Fightin’ Joins the Abundant Housing Movement At YIMBYtown
This spring, housing advocates from across the country convened in Portland, Oregon, for the fourth iteration of the YIMBYtown housing conference. With an emphasis on connecting the importance of shaping housing policy in line with climate policy, YIMBYtown featured numerous local and national speakers working on various freeway fighting.
The Urbanist‘s Ryan Packer moderated a panel about freeway fighting with Alex Contreras, Martha Roskowski, and YouthVsODOT’s own Adah Crandall. On the mainstage, Congress for New Urbanism helped put together a presentation on freeway removal. YouthVsODOT also held Week 25 of their protest, which featured New Orleans’ freeway fighter Amy Stelley and America Walks’ Executive Director Mike McGinn.
Finally, Albina Vision Trust’s Rukaiyah Adams spoke on a panel about housing later rebroadcast as an episode of Think Out Loud (and OPB’s Dave Miller gives No More Freeways a shout out!)
portland’s freeway fighters get our day in the old gray lady
After years of organizing locally, No More Freeways blew up on the national radar in 2022. In addition to the aforementioned glowing press coverage in Vice and Citylab, this April the New York Times published a detailed article chronicling our ongoing work to challenge ODOT and the freeway industrial complex. The article is worth reading in depth – it accurately captures the political and technical planning dynamics of our fight against ODOT, with quotes from NMF’s Joe Cortright as well as Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, Albina Vision Trust’s Rukaiyah Adams, Sunrise’s Adah Crandall, and Verde’s Vivian Satterfield.
Just Crossing Alliance launches
About a decade ago, ODOT and WSDOT spent literal hundreds of millions of dollars on their effort to expand I-5 between North Portland and downtown Vancouver, Washington. With efforts to revive this massive freeway expansion underway, advocates demanding a fiscally responsible, right-sized bridge replacement as an alternative to massive freeway expansion gathered and launched the Just Crossing Alliance. No More Freeways joined as a founding member of JCA along with 1000 Friends of Oregon, Disability Mobility Initiative, The Street Trust, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Verde, and Oregon Walks. JCA calls for prioritizing a right-sized bridge replacement without additional interchanges north and south of the bridge, as well as including congestion pricing and high capacity transit service.
Our work hasn’t gone unnoticed – Representative Khanh Pham, who sits on the legislature’s transportation committee and the bi-state bridge replacement committee, echoed our concerns in a May interview with Willamette Week and a December op-ed in the Oregonian.
Meanwhile, things don’t seem to be going so rosy for the bridge expansion team at IBR. They recently disclosed this month that estimated costs for the freeway expansion have escalated to over $7 billion; meanwhile, the Coast Guard is expressing grave concern about the currently proposed design. Stay tuned to learn how you can follow the Just Crossing Alliance’s work monitoring the Oregon Legislature’s consideration of allocating $1 billion for the freeway expansion this spring.
launch of Freeway Fighters national network
No More Freeways is proud to be a founding member of the newly launched Freeway Fighters National Network, spearheaded by our national partners America Walks, Transportation for America and Congress for New Urbanism. The Freeway Fighters Network represents a broad coalition of public and private sector leaders, community activists, and multidisciplinary professionals. The entity consists of local organizations across the country who dedicate themselves to championing design, equity, and policy principles that center people before highways. NMF was quoted in national transportation advocacy publication Streetsblog about our participation.
Circuit Court Agrees: ODOT misleads the public
Much of the work that No More Freeways has accomplished over the years has stemmed from using the Public Records process to obtain documents that ODOT has otherwise tried to hide from the public. You can imagine that ODOT doesn’t like participating in these public records requests, and this summer our allies’ lawsuit against ODOT demonstrated the agency was operation in brazen violation of public records laws designed to allow for transparency and accountability to the public. ODOT knows that the more the public learns about the project, the less they support it – and therefore ODOT will go to enormous lengths to keep private numerous basic details of the project. Friend of NMF Alan Kessler caught ODOT providing an incomplete (and even fabricated and doctored documents!) public record in response to a request he filed in 2019. As we told BikePortland, deliberate withholding of information represents merely the latest example of ODOT doing what it can to hide from the public basic details of the proposed freeway expansion.
Ending the year needing your help: Submit Public Comment by 1/4/23 and come to our 1/3/23 Hearing at Tubman
If you’ve appreciated all the work that we’ve undertaken over the year (and the above doesn’t even include our spitballs on the I-205 expansion or our advocacy in support of directing IIJA funding away from roads!), well, we now have a favor to ask. This is the moment in which our Rose Quarter comments and spitballs matter. ODOT’s Supplemental Environmental Assessment is out for public review and what a surprise – the agency scheduled the public comment period to coincide with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year, which ultimately suppresses the public from meaningfully engaging with the document.
Can we count on you to send ODOT a letter? We’ve made it as easy as possible for you on the NMF website – click here or the image above and we’ve got talking points and a form ready for you to use. We are asking community members to write that they support buildable caps on the freeways in support of restorative justice for the Albina community while also asking ODOT to study an alternative to freeway expansion. Comments are due to ODOT by January 4th, but the sooner you send it in the better. Please help share the link and ask your friends, colleagues, neighbors, whoever to submit comment.
Once you’ve written your letter to ODOT, save the date to come join us on January 3rd. Since ODOT refused to host an in-person public hearing, No More Freeways is hosting our own at Harriet Tubman Middle School.
Learn more on our People’s Public Hearing page.
Help us keep the lights on at No More FreewayS
Look, we know we’re badgering you for a lot right now. Submitting comments, attending our event, spreading the word, on and on and on. But for us to have the resources we need to fight ODOT, well, we gotta keep passing the hat around. Please consider including No More Freeways in your end-of-year donations; every dollar you give empowers so, so many hours of volunteer labor reading ODOT’s technical reports, filing lawsuits, and organizing rallies. Whether you donate $5000, $500, $150, $50 or $15, we will send you a hand written thank you card and a button/sticker to thank you for supporting our all-volunteer, grassroots fight against the multimillion dollar freeway industrial complex.