Hey ODOT! We’ll see you in court.

No More Freeways, Neighbors for Clean Air, Eliot Neighborhood Association file Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion lawsuit

Community advocates opposed to the Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT’s) proposed $800 million freeway expansion into the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School today announced that they have filed a lawsuit against the project. The plaintiff’s complaint uses various laws including the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) to try to force ODOT to prep a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to study alternatives to adding more lanes to Interstate 5. Public health advocacy organization Neighbors for Clean Air and the Eliot Neighborhood Association joined the grassroots community group No More Freeways as plaintiffs against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which approved ODOT’s proposed  Environmental Assessment (EA) last fall. 

Our full NEPA complaint can be accessed here.

“Today is a historic day for anyone who believes that ODOT should be held to basic standards of community accountability and transparency,” said Aaron Brown, an organizer with No More Freeways. “ODOT has continued to blatantly hide and misrepresent their intentions with this proposed $800 million expansion in the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School. The public has every right to know the impacts this proposed freeway expansion would have on our neighborhood streets, on the lungs of our children, and the planet they stand to inherit. This lawsuit is our mechanism to try to force ODOT to answer to the community’s concerns.”

“Transportation infrastructure projects like the original I-5 freeway have created an environmental justice catastrophe for the surrounding Albina neighborhood,” said Mary Peveto, Executive Director for Neighbors for Clean Air. “Now, instead learning from the past and putting community voices at the center of decision-making, ODOT is not only planning an expansion based on flawed analysis, but looks to build it right at the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School, an historic and majority non-white institution that already has some of the worst air pollution in the state. We’re eager to join this legal action to hold this agency accountable for the air pollution they are clearly intending to add to this already polluted neighborhood.”

“The Eliot Neighborhood Association has been fighting ODOT’s proposed freeway expansion for over a decade. We’re eager to support alternatives to freeway expansion that address the needs for restorative justice in this neighborhood,” said Allan Rudwick, co-Chair of the Eliot Neighborhood Association. “We shouldn’t spend a single dollar increasing pollution or prioritizing cars in a time of climate emergency. If close to a billion dollars is going to be spent in the area, we need to get immense returns on that investment. This project is already hindering development of the many vacant and under-utilized parcels in the area. If built, it would disrupt local traffic for several years and increase air pollution in our area for years to come.”

Two years ago, ODOT published a draft Environmental Assessment for the proposed freeway expansion that was loudly derided by community groups. The agency hid numerous crucial documents from the public in their EA, including basic details about the width of the proposed freeway and the impacts to the air pollution at Tubman Middle School. 

No More Freeways’ independent analysis of ODOT’s traffic projections found multiple egregious errors and outdated assumptions that were used to try to prop up ODOT’s dubious assertions that this freeway expansion would be the first in North American history to reduce congestion, air pollution or carbon emissions. Dozens of local elected officials and community leaders issued statements demanding ODOT conduct a full EIS for the proposed expansion, with over 91% of the thousands of comments submitted to ODOT expressing opposition to the project. Community groups demanding a full EIS in 2019 included Audubon Society of Portland, OPAL – Environmental Justice Oregon, Oregon Walks, and Business for a Better Portland. 

Despite this outcry, last fall the federal government granted a Finding Of No Significant Impact (FONSI) to ODOT for the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion. This week’s NEPA lawsuit challenges the federal government’s FONSI’s findings, arguing it violates NEPA. The lawsuit asserts that ODOT must conduct a full EIS, rather than a more truncated or shorthand EA, and that ODOT must fully evaluate alternatives to freeway expansion that will address traffic congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. 

Last week, No More Freeways sent a letter to Secretary Pete Buttigieg, detailing findings first published in Willamette Week last month about how ODOT has deliberately hidden from the public the width of the proposed freeway. No More Freeways believes this evidence is sufficient to require that the federal government withdraw their FONSI finding for ODOT’s expansion.   

Plaintiffs in the case are represented by attorneys Sean Malone, the Law Office of Karl G. Anuta, and Oxbow Law Group’s Mike Sargetakis and Doug Hageman.

The full complaint can be accessed here

Join us at our rally to celebrate the lawsuit on Friday, April 9th at Tubman Middle School. More details on our website.

Wanna celebrate our lawsuit? Join us for our rally at Tubman on Friday.

Thanks to the NMF street team for helping get the word out!

No More Freeways, Sunrise Movement PDX and students from the Harriet Tubman Middle School community will be hosting a rally at Tubman MIddle School on the evening of Friday, April 9th. Confirmed speakers include former students from Harriet Tubman Middle School and advocates representing Oregon Walks, Sunrise PDX, Neighbors for Clean Air, and No More Freeways. The full roster of speakers will be announced later this week; check out the No More Freeways website for more information. 

This event will be held outdoors; masks will be required, and we will practice social distancing.

Our rally will also be livestreamed for people who wish to join us at the rally virtually; we have tentatively confirmed ASL translation will be available.

Friday, April 9, 5-7pm

Meet at the entrance of Harriet Tubman Middle School (2231 N Flint Ave)

Learn more on our rally website.

#StopTheFONSI

Secretary Pete Buttigieg has impressed many transportation advocates in the past few weeks since his appointment to President Biden’s cabinet. He’s repeatedly stressed the importance of making transportation investments and policies that prioritize climate action, improvements to public health, and righting the racist trespasses of backwards transportation policy that defined the twentieth century. He’s repeatedly spoken about the need to “Build Back Better” by listening to community advocates, and he leveraged his position to support the efforts of advocates in Houston fighting a $7 billion freeway expansion of I-45 that would displace 1000 homes in a predominantly Black community.

Graphic says "ODONT" and features NMF logo

Today, we call on Secretary Pete to act on those values and rescind the Finding Of No Significant Impact(FONSI) that the federal government granted ODOT for the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion back in October 2020. Since that finding, news has surfaced that ODOT has been repeatedly lyingto the public about the width of the proposed freeway,which negates their already-shoddy traffic projections the agency used to make their biased claims in support of lower traffic congestion, air pollution or carbon emissions.
No More Freeways’ Joe Cortright penned a letter to Secretary Pete Buttigieg, getting his team up to speed on all of ODOT’s shenanigans over the past few months. Secretary Pete’s team is all over social media, so if you’re feeling so inclined, you can join us in making sure this administration.

Can you tag @SecretaryPete on instagram or twitter and tell him to #StopTheFONSI? You can share our content on our twitter and instagram,

Today, we call on Secretary Pete to act on those values and rescind the Finding Of No Significant Impact(FONSI) that the federal government granted ODOT for the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion back in October 2020. Since that finding, news has surfaced that ODOT has been repeatedly lyingto the public about the width of the proposed freeway,which negates their already-shoddy traffic projections the agency used to make their biased claims in support of lower traffic congestion, air pollution or carbon emissions.

No More Freeways’ Joe Cortright penned a letter to Secretary Pete Buttigieg, getting his team up to speed on all of ODOT’s shenanigans over the past few months. Secretary Pete’s team is all over social media, so if you’re feeling so inclined, you can join us in making sure this administration hears that Oregonians want the federal government to hold ODOT responsible for the damage they stand to cause to the Albina neighborhood and our community as a whole.

Can you share our graphics on instagram and twitter, and tag @SecretaryPete and our #STOPtheFONSI hashtag?

TUBMAN RALLY APRIL 9th

Hope we can also count on you to show up to our rally on Friday, April 9 we’re hosting with Sunrise PDX and the Harriet Tubman Middle School community. We’ll be practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and also livestreaming the event in case you wish to attend virtually. More information about the event will be updated HERE as we confirm speakers and other details. Stay tuned!

Coal in ODOT’s stocking: No More Freeways’ 2020 year-in-review

Greetings, folks! It’s once again time for our year-in-review blog post over here at No More Freeways. No More Freeways stayed very busy this year despite all the punches that 2020 chose to throw in our direction. Throughout the omnicrisis, we continued our fight against ODOT’s $800 million Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion, scoring numerous political victories throughout the summer and holding the agency accountable for their public deception and lack of accountability as they push forward an $800 million freeway expansion. Furthermore, the events of the year – historic climate-change-fueled wildfires burning across the state, a growing movement demanding a reckoning of institutional racism, a devastating pandemic in which proximity to air pollution appears a significant risk factor – have only emboldened our conviction that the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion is directly antithetical to all of Oregon’s goals for a greener, more equitable, and healthier future.

At the bottom of this blog, we’re going to ask you chip in a few bucks to help us gear up for some legal action and continued community organizing in 2021. But before we do, let’s share the updates from our fight with ODOT and our support of transportation policies reforms across our city, region and state. 

WINTER

Thanks to Joan Petit and so many other advocates for testifying at the OTC hearing in January.

No More Freeways, Sunrise, Tubman Moms storm OTC in Lake Oswego – The Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) is the byzantine entity of appointed officials that ostensibly provides oversight and direction for the Oregon Department of Transportation. Functionally, the entity has largely been a rubber stamp for the agency’s freeway expansion ambitions, and has historically operated with clandestine secrecy, with little interest in public accessibility and accountability. So we showed up to their hearing midweek at a hotel in Lake Oswego to demand an Environmental Impact Statement after organizing thousands of letters and postcards to the OTC demanding a rigorous look at the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion.

There was so much excellent testimony, but for our money, the best came from NMF’s Tubman Mom champion, Joan Petit, who spoke passionately about systemic racism and the need for ODOT to stick up for her children and all the students at Tubman Middle School.

Thanks to NMF’s lawyers and FOIA experts, we caught ODOT trying to trick the city into approving this expansion of I-5 over the Eastbank Esplanade. ODOT’s latest proposal for the freeway removes this intrusion into the park and river.

FOIA fuss fuels freeway fighters – No More Freeways’ FOIA expert Alan Kessler requested and received documents from ODOT that demonstrated the agency was attempting to circumvent the City of Portland’s Parks Department‘s approval of the expansion of the freeway over the city’s Eastbank Esplanade. Later this fall, ODOT would announce they changed their proposals to not expand over the esplanade and avoid building into the Willamette River.

We ❤ Rose Lanes, too.

Rose Lane Project Passes City CouncilThanks to the leadership from PBOT and Commissioner Eudaly, in February Portland City Council approved the Rose Lane Project, a historic policy advancement that will reallocate road space to transit over single-occupancy vehicles. (Editor’s Note: the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion would actually slow transit through the Albina neighborhood, with numerous buses seeing delays from the proposed surface-level street changes).

SPRING

Op-Ed in support of Traffic Safety published in the OWe’re so grateful for Michelle DuBarry, who experienced unfathomable tragedy after the loss of her 22-month son to traffic violence on an ODOT arterial. She wrote about her frustration with ODOT’s lack of commitment to investing in traffic safety, as represented by the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion, in The Oregonian.

“I don’t know what political mountains need to be moved for the agency to repurpose that money, but I am hoping our local leaders and advocates can apply enough pressure to convince them to invest in real traffic safety. They might start with the intersection of North Lombard Street and North Interstate Avenue where my son was killed in his stroller on a two-block walk from our house to the grocery store.

If the state has nearly a billion dollars to invest in safety, surely we can do better than a freeway expansion.”

Michelle DuBarry, “ODOT’s ‘safety’ project in Rose Quarter ignores state’s deadliest roads” The Oregonian

One of our chief outrages about the Rose Quarter is the extent to which ODOT is willing to prioritize spending billions on widening freeways while simultaneously claiming poverty when asked by local community leaders to address the orphan highways and dangerous arterials that frequently harm and kill Oregonians across the state due to poor design and disinvestment.

The kids are alright!

Tubman students, Sunrise host mayoral debateNo More Freeways was grateful to see students from the Harriet Tubman Middle School Environmental Justice club partner with Sunrise PDX and 350PDX to host a mayoral forum that asked the candidates about their views on climate justice, freeway expansion, and transit service. This was the last in-person event for many of us before the pandemic struck, and it was spectacular to be in a room where the next generation of Oregonians got to grill local officials on their commitment to climate action.

ODOT buried report showing Black Oregonians deeply skeptical of agency – In 2019, ODOT conducted a public opinion studies with Black Oregonians about their views on the expansion and whether they thought ODOT was trustworthy. Black Oregonians overwhelmingly expressed skepticism that the agency could be trusted to deliver on their promises of restorative justice. This report was shared with the Oregon Transportation Commission in February, but wasn’t made available to the public until June, after the OTC voted in April to move forward with the Environmental Assessment. That didn’t stop OTC members from citing “support from the Black community” as a significant talking point in their unanimous support for the expansion.

SUMMER

Black Lives Matter protests reigned throughout the summer, including one evening in June, when the protests took to the Fremont Bridge

Albina Vision, City, County officially oppose Freeway Expansion, withdraw from participationThree months after ODOT promised the Oregon Transportation Commission that they would fully partner with community leaders to secure their vote for the Environmental Assessment, community leaders expressed their frustration with ODOT’s abysmal public engagement by publicly revoking their support and participation in the project. Inspired in part by the global reckoning with white supremacy in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Albina Vision Trust’s announcement of unequivocal opposition to the project led local elected officials Commissioner Eudaly and Commissioner Vega Pederson to publicly withdraw support and no longer participate in ODOT’s Executive Steering Committee.

“This is the wrong project for our city. I am stepping down from the steering committee. I do not support the Rose Quarter I-5 Corridor project. And I urge the state to prioritize safety, climate change, and racial justice in all future transportation investments.”

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, quoted in Racial Justice Group Albina Vision Trust Withdraws Its Support for I-5 Rose Quarter Expansion, Willamette Week

Mayor Ted Wheeler, originally a proponent of the project, also announced his opposition in June.

“At every step, I have asked ODOT for specific goals to be met around climate, community and economic development. Those goals have not been met. Therefore, I am withdrawing my support.”

– Mayor Ted Wheeler, quoted in Mayor Ted Wheeler Is Also Withdrawing Support for ODOT’s Rose Quarter Project, Willamette Week

One week later, Commissioner Eudaly and the Portland City Council took their opposition to the project one step further, writing a letter decreeing all municipal bureaus should cease any and all communication with ODOT staffers on the project.

The letter — signed by Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioners Chloe Eudaly, Jo Ann Hardesty and Amanda Fritz — is the clearest signal yet that even modest efforts to expand freeways in Portland may be politically unpalatable.

Portland bureaus cease work on ODOT’s I-5 Rose Quarter plan, Portland Tribune

Even The Oregonian’s editorial board chimed in, stating that “while the highway project may have the legislative authority to proceed, it now lacks the moral authority to do so.”

Despite the prominent withdrawl from the Mayor and other prominent elected officials and community leaders, ODOT has continued throughout the year to hold meetings with the Executive Steering Committee, and made surprisingly little reference to the absence of prominent stakeholders and leaders in subsequent meetings.

sixplexes for all!

Residential Infill Project PassesWhile it’s not directly related to fighting ODOT, No More Freeways and our allies were closely tracking the Residential Infill Project, which passed Portland City Council in August. Our pals at Sightline Institute and Portland: Neighbors Welcome have the full run down on this historic victory.

FALL

Climate apocalypse arrives. Is ODOT paying attention? – As the entire West Coast was draped with smoke for weeks and Oregon experienced record-breaking death and destruction from acres of wildfires, No More Freeways joined Sunrise PDX for a photoshoot on the Eastbank Esplanade.

40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation. It’s the only sector of our economy where emissions are growing. According to 2018’s IPCC report, we now have only nine years left to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. The Oregon fires this fall killed at least 11 people, burned more than 1,000,000 acres of land, destroyed thousands of homes, and radicalized a generation of Oregonians already petrified about the looming climate apocalypse.

Probably time for ODOT to stop spending billions widening freeways! 

Community Advisory Committee disbanded, pens letter rejecting ODOT’s attempt to force them to “rubber stamp” expansion – This spring, ODOT established a Community Advisory Committee designed to provide feedback to the agency about the proposed plans. Yet community members repeatedly asked ODOT pointed questions about the charter of the committee, their ability to write statements questioning the need for additional lanes of freeway, and their desire to have more input beyond minor cosmetic details irrelevant to the bulk of the $800 million project. After four meetings of increasingly pointed questions from a diverse set of committee members, ODOT disbanded the entity days before the CAC members planned to resign in protest.

“The Oregon Department of Transportation disbanded the CAC because we didn’t play ball with them. We refused to be a compliant part of the non-transparent facade of community engagement that ODOT had created in the CAC. We refused to rubber-stamp a project that will lead to poor air quality outcomes for children at Harriet Tubman Middle School and the neighborhood at large. We refused to stop asking the hard questions, and we demanded that our voices, including and especially the voices of Black Portlanders, be heard….Without reconsidering the project from scratch, the State risks continuing the “business as usual” approach that perpetuates racism, white supremacy, and the climate injustices that are embedded and interwoven into the very creation of I5 and the Rose Quarter.”

Letter to OTC, elected officials, signed from 14 former members of the Community Advisory Committee members

Members of the CAC penned a sharp letter to ODOT and local elected officials sharing their frustration with being asked to “rubber stamp” the expansion and their inability to provide meaningful feedback on their concerns about restorative justice, carbon emissions or air pollution. OPB’s Dave Miller grilled ODOT’s staff on the decision on a memorable episode of Think Out Loud, which featured appearances from former CAC members Oregon Walks’ Claire Vlach and Soul District Business Association’s John Washington. 

“As the kids would say, it was shady.”

-Liz Fouther-Branch, former Community Advisory Committee (CAC) member, quoted in “Inside a Contentious, Now-Shuttered Advisory Committee on the Portland I-5 Widening Plan“, Portland Mercury

City of Portland Tells Feds: We’re Out Months after City Council forbid municipal staff from working with ODOT on the freeway expansion, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly wrote the federal government explicitly articulating that the City of Portland would refuse to participate with ODOT on the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion

“Bringing these issues to you in our role as a partner agency is unprecedented in our region’s history… we hope that agency leadership will take them seriously.”

– Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, Portland makes ‘unprecedented’ withdrawal from ODOT’s I-5 Rose Quarter project, BikePortland.org
Ted Wheeler’s Voter Pamphlet Statement, in which he runs on his record of “demand[ing] a Rose Quarter that aligns with Albina Vision goals.”

Election Night brings new wave of ODOT-skeptics to local officials – Every single candidate who won an election for local office this year expressed healthy skepticism of ODOT and the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion. Portland Commissioner Dan Ryan and Commissioners-Elect Mingus Mapps and Carmen Rubio are on the record in opposition to the project and demanding ODOT conduct an Environmental Impact Statement. Metro Councilor-Elect Mary Nolan flipped to a position of opposition to the project this summer. Mayor Ted Wheeler even gave a shoutout to his concern with the Rose Quarter in his Voter Pamphlet Statement mailed to voters. While candidates like NMF-cofounder Chris Smith and Sarah Iannarone (and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, the greatest elected champion of our cause) lost election bids this fall, no candidate could run for local office without stating opposition to ODOT’s freeway expansion plans. Numerous new legislators similarly expressed skepticism as well. It’s encouraging to see widespread agreement from local leaders that freeway expansion is unacceptable to municipal climate, health, and equity goals. 

Sunrise PDX youth climate leadaers, in January, testifying at Metro in support of a climate-smart regional transportation package

And while No More Freeways’ members were split on the large regional transportation measure that failed on the ballot this November, an emerging consensus has grown from political leaders around the region that climate and transit justice must be addressed with any upcoming subsequent proposal. We look forward to joining local advocates in demanding that Metro’s next attempt at a package doubles down on the need to invest in transit, biking and walking over road and highway expansions. The electoral engagement of Sunrise PDX is a bright spot that will continue to push for climate accountability at ODOT and other agencies in their transportation decisions in the years ahead.

OTC ignores public feedback, heightened scrutiny in latest round of STIP funding – In most years, ODOT and the OTC move forward with allocating funding for the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) with minimal fanfare. This program determines where the state agency will spend billions of dollars on transportation projects across the state – and unsurprisingly, the agency overwhelmingly allocates funding to highways over bicycle or pedestrian projects. This fall, however, No More Freeways joined our heroic partners at Oregon Environmental Council and BikeLoudPDX to raise a ruckus and help send hundreds of letters from advocates for traffic safety, climate action, and racial justice all over the state.

“Where the failure is occurring is, we keep falling back to incrementalism and the status quo. We would love to see leadership at the state, ODOT, and OTC really step up and recognize that the time for incrementalism is over. This is a powerful agency making decisions about hundreds of millions of dollars and we need to see that money go to where it can help Oregonians now and in the future.”

– Sara Wright, Oregon Environmental Council, quoted in ODOT delays $2.2 billion allocation vote after changing funding options, Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Our Loud

Oral and written testimony from Bend, Jacksonville, Beavercreek, Eugene, Portland and Corvallis overwhelmed the OTC with demands they invest 15% of the upcoming STIP funding for biking, walking, and transit projects; the OTC ignored the public comment and instead moved forward with their original plans. Special thanks to BikePortland for significant coverage of this vote. 

What’s in store for 2021?

We are gearing up for another busy year of fighting the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion and challenging the freeway industrial complex that currently dictates the billions of dollars in the budget of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

On one hand, our campaign to fight the Rose Quarter has never looked better – community leaders continue to come out of the woodwork to express their frustrations with this $800 million boondoggle freeway expansion, and the increased urgency of the voices asking for restorative justice and climate action continues to inspire new voices to speak up and demand accountability from ODOT for this freeway expansion and the road-heavy statewide budget. The state is broke, thanks to the covid-recession, and it’s uncertain where the agency could possibly find the substantial funding necessary for the ongoing cost overruns, let alone to fund a truly restorative investment in the Albina neighborhood. Voters in Oregon (and Portland specifically) are increasingly identifying climate action as a top priority, and the only way ODOT can get positive support for the proposal is to demonstrably lie about the potential impacts of the expansion on air pollution, traffic safety and climate.

JPACT hearing, October 2020, in which Sunrise Beaverton members testified in opposition to widening Highway 217

On the other hand, our year ended just as it began: watching the Oregon Transportation Commission ignore passionate, overwhelming testimony pleading for reform of ODOT to align the budget and policy priorities with the values of Oregonians clamoring for climate action, racial justice, cleaner air, transportation options, and congestion relief. While our efforts are undeniably growing in strength, with a wider cross-section of advocates representing a larger swath of Oregonians, the OTC and ODOT continues to muscle forward with status quo paradigms that current and future generations simply cannot afford. ODOT continues to spend countless dollars on consultants and lobbyists to steamroll this project and act as though all the aforementioned opposition is irrelevant to the inevitability of this sprawling monstrosity of a freeway expansion. After disbanding the Community Advisory Committee, the agency cynically announced it was starting a new “Historic Albina Advisory Committee” to “center Black voices,” as if the Black voices on the original CAC were inauthentic because they dared challenge the agency. Furthermore, ODOT’s making new hires to move forward with the Abernethy Bridge expansion in Clackamas County, and appears to be moving quickly to push for a new Columbia River Crossing proposal with their pals at WsDOT across the river.

Letter NMF sent to Oregon Transportation Commission, complaining that seven months into the pandemic the Commission still hadn’t figured out how to take public testimony during virtual hearings

But freeway expansions are inevitable until they aren’t. Our all-volunteer civic effort has made so much progress in building opposition to this freeway expansion over the last three and a half years, thanks to the help of so many organizations, individuals, and everyday Oregonians who want to invest in communities instead of freeways. We are so grateful for the moral clarity of all who have joined us to challenge this reckless project, and for the gift of community we’ve found in organizing our neighbors and partners to speak up and demand ODOT live up to our values. If you have to bare the brunt of the wildfires, it’s best to bare it with your peers in a bold action demanding accountability from the agency’s committing arson by pouring gasoline on our future, diesel in our lungs, freeways in our communities.

In 2021, in a first for No More Freeways, we intend to pursue legal action and sue the pants off of ODOT. We think we have a pretty good case – a few pretty good cases, actually. We are actively working with our lawyers to challenge the federal NEPA Finding of No Significant Impact, and to organize our community to join us, and how to make sure our efforts for transportation reform empower our partners to reshape their community in their own image – not in ODOT’s.

Lawyers cost money, unfortunately. And while we’ve been particularly thrifty with the money you’ve given us over the years, we’re gonna need another chunk of change to mount the legal challenge we need to hold ODOT accountable for what they are proposing to do to our climate, our community, our city, our lungs. We also need money to keep our website afloat and advertise our future action alerts, as we closely watch OTC meetings, and the upcoming legislative session.

Click the above button to donate to No More Freeways and help us sue ODOT

An anonymous donor has pledged to match up to $5000 in our efforts to fundraise for our year ahead. If you’re able to support No More Freeways with a donation – whether $500, $50 or $15, whatever you can afford – we’ll send you a thank you card and a button. We may not have the army of consultants and PR flacks that ODOT does – but we have an army of community advocates, we have moral clarity in the fight for climate and restorative justice, and we soon enough will have a vaccine that allows us to once again rabblerouse against this freeway in person.

Thanks for your support!
Together, we’re going to kill this dumb freeway.

Yours,
Aaron

800 MILLION FRICKIN’ DOLLARS!

Happy New Year, Freeway Fighters! Here’s what you might have missed in the last month over the holiday.

Governor Brown asks for delay on OTC vote on RQ

Governor Brown letter: The day before the big Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) hearing in which they were scheduled to vote to move forward with the Environmental Assessment, Governor Kate Brown asked for the OTC to delay their vote on the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion.
We are grateful that Governor Brown reaffirmed it’s impossible (despite ODOT’s continued intentions) to simply build our way out of traffic congestion, air pollution or carbon emissions. Her encouragement of further study and implementation of congestion pricing is commendable, and we are also pleased Governor Brown acknowledges the need for ODOT to collaborate with ongoing community-led initiatives for justice in the restoration of the neighborhood.
In light of the Governor’s letter, No More Freeways continues to demand that ODOT conduct a rigorous Environmental Impact Statement that could clarify whether ODOT is telling the truth in their claims that the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion would somehow be the first in America that reduced traffic congestion, lowered carbon emissions or improved air pollution. Our independent analysis of ODOT’s traffic projections revealed numerous, easily-challenged assumptions and discrepancies with significant implications to the project’s public health and climate considerations. The public deserves nothing short of full accountability, transparency and honest assessment of these impacts for a proposed half billion dollar investment in fossil-fuel infrastructure on the dawn of our hastily arriving climate emergency.
No More Freeways, Sunrise PDX roadtrips to Lebanon:   Despite the fact that the Oregon Transportation Commission had planned to hold their vote on the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion over 100 miles away from the location of the project, and gave the public only one week No More Freeways and youth climate leaders at Sunrise PDX roadtripped down to Lebanon, Oregon to testify at the OTC hearing. It’s deeply unfortunate that ODOT has tried to pit our climate-minded, sensible transportation advocacy against folks who wish to see workforce development and support for minority contracting. We are fundamentally in support of initiatives to put the community to work and provide economic opportunities to build green infrastructure that will tackle congestion, reduce carbon emissions and improve air pollution. We’re eager to continue to champion alternatives to freeway expansion, which historically have comparably small job benefits per dollar of investment, especially in comparison to investments in transit, biking and walking.
Thanks to BikePortland.org for the detailed, nuanced coverage of last month’s meeting (and thanks to FOX 12 for covering the Sunrise PDX climate advocates who have been with us all year in opposition to this project). And thanks to the Portland Mercury, for getting this quote from Brian Davis, NMF’s expert Traffic Engineer:
“At the end of the day, the [environmental assessment] was a half-assed effort that was quite obviously prepared to reach a pre-ordained conclusion,” Davis said. “Our region has not taken a serious and sober look at this project. We are firing blind here. We have no idea what this freeway expansion will do to traffic volumes on the freeway, to the air quality near it, to the lungs of the schoolchildren alongside it.”
What’s next: We look forward to the Oregon Transportation Commission announcing when they intend to vote on whether the I-5 Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion; we expect it to be sometime in the next three months. We sincerely hope that the OTC agrees that the vote about whether or not to move forward with the Environmental Assessment will be held in the City of Portland, that they will give adequate public notification, that the event will be accessible the community, and that you all join us to turn out and make your voice heard. Stay tuned!


OH BY THE WAY,
THE RQ FREEWAY EXPANSION NOW COSTS ALMOST $800 MILLION F*CKING DOLLARS

Willamette Week got their hands on ODOT’s “cost to complete” report, and it contained a doozy: to absolutely no ones surprise, costs on the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion continue to dramatically rise. WW was nice enough to quote us about our concerns for the project:
“The Cost to Complete report suggests that ODOT continues to deceive the public in every pertinent detail about this disastrous, polluting megaproject,” says Aaron Brown, organizer of No More Freeways, a group opposed to the project. “The project’s cost have increased 66 percent in approximately three years, and this increase doesn’t addressing the expensive but necessary recommended changes Portland Public Schools and Albina Vision have requested to ensure ODOT’s proposals contributes to initiatives for a healthy, functional neighborhood, city and region.”
In a followup interview, Willamette Week asked ODOT’s staffers if there was a cost at which this project would no longer be feasible, or a cost at which the agency would stop pursuing the project. The agency said no. The newspaper also asked ODOT about our claims that induced demand would mean the freeway expansion would be full of traffic as soon as it reopened (a claim backed by ODOT’s own consultants). Their response?
“It’s important to hear those voices, and we’ve certainly heard that about induced demand, but our system isn’t quite there yet. The need is there to ensure that we keep Portland moving”
We are as puzzled as you are by “our system isn’t quite there yet” means.

ADVOCACY ALERT: NEED YOU TO TURN OUT FOR HEARINGS FOR T2020 AND FOR PORTLAND’S RESIDENTIAL INFILL PROJECT

There are two big advocacy opportunities coming up in the next couple days that close allies of the No More Freeway campaign have been tracking for years. If you’ve got time and an inclination to show up for some housing, transportation and climate justice in the next week, please consider writing to your elected officials or showing up to testify:

METRO HEARING NEXT MONDAY, JAN 13: Getting There Together and a litany of other community partners we trust are asking folks to turn out for the big T2020 hearing at Metro Council this next MONDAY, January 13. We need folks to show up and testify in support of transit, biking and walking options and to oppose the road expansions proposed in this package that will be referred to voters for the November ballot. The facebook event is here.
RESIDENTIAL INFILL PROJECT, NEXT WEEK: 
After winning better rules hat allow mixed-income apartments to be built in mid-density zones (read: denser, more equitable housing), now the fight to re-legalize fourplexes is finally at City Hall. On January 15th & 16th, Portland City Council will hear public testimony, and we know the opposition will turn out strong.

We need to match them. Join Sunrise PDX, No More Freeways, Portlanders for Parking Reform and Portland: Neighbors Welcome for a testimony prep happy hour on January 10th at NW Lucky Lab. We’ll present an overview of the latest Residential Infill draft, and share our recommendations to strengthen it – including a proposal to create more regulated affordable homes. For those who are new to giving testimony, we’ll share all the tips and tricks.

Start 2020 off right and join the fight for a liveable climate, more equitable housing, and common-sense parking reform through the re-legalization of fourplexes. If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to get involved and missed us in 2019, now is the perfect time to hop on board.

Do let us know if you have any accessibility needs, or would like free child care available on site, and we will make sure to accommodate! Remember to wear blue! 

Still time to demand ODOT conduct an EIS:

After sending in hundreds of postcards (and 300+ emails) to the Oregon Transportation Commission and roadtripping down to Lebanon last month, we’re in a bit of a holding period. We are eagerly awaiting the Oregon Transportation Commission’s update on when they plan to vote on the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion – we certainly hope that they will hold the meeting in Portland, and give us a few weeks notice to ensure that the community has the proper time to engage with their vote.
If you haven’t already sent in a letter demanding a full Environmental Impact Statement, it’s not too late – we encourage you to reach out to the OTC (and go ahead and email your message to your local state representative and senator, too).  Email them and demand that the OTC listen to the hundreds of community members and advocates asking for a full Environmental Impact Statement.

Passin’ the hat around for No More Freeways – got a few bucks to keep us strong in 2020?

It’s been a busy year for No More Freeways. Here’s a brief list of our accomplishments:

✅ Helped community submit 2000+ comments on the public record this spring, 90% in opposition to the project
✅ thoroughly debunked ODOT’s traffic projections
✅ partnered with Sunrise Movement PDX to testify at numerous Metro T2020 task force hearings
✅ Took over ODOT’s public hearing in March with overwhelming testimony in opposition to the project
✅ Brought Tubman MS students to testify at JPACT and kill ODOT’s sneaky CBOS program
✅ Got five legislators (including Speaker Tina Kotek!), the whole PPS board, Mayor Wheeler, and other local elected officials to ask ODOT for a full Environmental Impact Statement (shoutout to Rep Power for being the first!)

✅ Helped ODOT’s project get listed as a top ten highway boondoggle by U.S. PIRG

✅ Caught ODOT lying about the impacts this project would have to the Eastbank Esplanade

✅ went viral on twitter a few times for heckling our ostensible climate-minded elected officials who weren’t sticking up for our cause (you know who they were)
✅ Engaged the wonderful students, teachers, and parents at Harriet Tubman Middle School, and radicalized the PPS Board to fight this damn freeway in the process
✅ Testified at the Oregon Transportation Commission twice, including once with Sunrise climate youth in Lebanon, and mailed them a letter regarding the need to hire a climate smart director (they didn’t listen to us)

✅ Earned press in Slate.comStreetsblog USA, got an interview on OPB’s Think Out Loud, all sorts of rabblerousing with Willamette WeekThe Oregonian and Portland Mercury, and was on local television more times than we care to count

✅ shined a big “Climate Leaders Don’t Widen Freeways” light up against ODOT’s downtown building
✅ Helped solicit testimony for numerous bills in the legislature this summer including stronger diesel regulations, drivers cards, missing middle housing
✅ showed up for OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon‘s #UpWithRiders campaign
✅ Tabled at the Youth Climate Strike in September with 350PDX
✅ hosted our friends at a fancy table at Oregon Walks‘ Westons this year!
✅ co-hosted a memorable, moving rally in the rain outside of ODOT’s headquarters this December
✅ and even got Governor Kate Brown to weigh in on our project and ask for the OTC to delay their vote.

We couldn’t have done all of this without you – we’re an all-volunteer group of Portlanders hustling in our spare time to fight the freeway industrial complex. We’re gonna need your help in 2020 – any chance you can throw us $20 (or whatever you can afford) to help us cover our costs as we continue to rabblerouse in the new year? We’ll mail you some of our nifty buttons and stickers!

Thanks and gratitude for your ongoing support. We’ve got a decade left to fundamentally decarbonize our society, and we can’t do it without you. join us today, and help us make sure every elected official in the entire state of Oregon hears us when we say:

Climate leaders don’t widen freeways.

Our response to Governor Brown’s Rose Quarter letter to the OTC

This afternoon, Governor Brown sent a letter to the Oregon Transportation Commission requesting a delay on their vote on the $500 million Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion at tomorrow’s meeting at Lebanon.

Text of our response is below.

_______

We are delighted to hear that Governor Brown is listening to the rapidly growing number of community leaders, elected officials and climate justice activists raising significant concerns about Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT’s) proposed $500 million Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion in the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School. We are grateful the Governor reaffirmed that it’s impossible (despite ODOT’s continued intentions) to simply build our way out of traffic congestion, air pollution or carbon emissions. Her encouragement of further study and implementation of congestion pricing is commendable, and we are also pleased Governor Brown acknowledges the need for ODOT to collaborate with ongoing community-led initiatives for justice in the restoration of the neighborhood. The agency has obviously failed to meaningfully partner with crucial local stakeholders relevant to the successful rebirth of this neighborhood, which aspires to heal from a previous generation’s racist trespasses and policy mistakes that cause harm to this day.

In light of the Governor’s letter, No More Freeways continues to demand that ODOT conduct a rigorous Environmental Impact Statement that could clarify whether ODOT is telling the truth in their claims that the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion would somehow be the first in America that reduced traffic congestion, lowered carbon emissions or improved air pollution. Our independent analysis of ODOT’s traffic projections revealed numerous, easily-challenged assumptions and discrepancies with significant implications to the project’s public health and climate considerations. The public deserves nothing short of full accountability, transparency and honest assessment of these impacts for a proposed half billion dollar investment in fossil-fuel infrastructure on the dawn of our hastily arriving climate emergency.

Our request for a full Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed freeway expansion was echoed this spring during the public comment period by Portland Public Schools, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, Representative Karin Power, Business for a Better Portland, Portland Audubon Society, Albina Vision Trust, the Eliot Neighborhood Association, Neighbors for Clean Air, Portland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees, The Street Trust, Oregon Environmental Council and thousands of Oregonians across the state. They were joined by Speaker Tina Kotek, Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, Senator Michael Dembrow, Representative Rob Nosse, Metro Council President Lynn Peterson, Mayor Ted Wheeler and 1000 Friends of Oregon this past week, as well as hundreds of Oregonians who sent postcards to the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) directly.

No More Freeways and Sunrise PDX look forward to testifying at the OTC hearing in Lebanon tomorrow to ask Commissioners to their faces what leadership action they intend to take to address ODOT’s institutional complicity in exacerbating the urgent climate emergency currently unfolding. 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation, and in the months and years ahead we fully intend to hold Governor Kate Brown, ODOT Director Kris Stickler and OTC Chair Bob Van Brocklin accountable for the impact these massive proposed freeway expansions will have on the health and well being of current and future Oregonians. Building a Green New Deal requires retiring the grey old deal – our bright, sustainable future of walkable communities and frequent, reliable, accessible transit can only be funded by the divestment of costly, outdated, polluting fossil-fuel infrastructure like the multiple freeway expansions ODOT has proposed across the region.

Climate leaders simply don’t widen freeways, and we sure hope in the decade to come the state of Oregon can still be counted on to deliver innovative, thoughtful, and honest environmental leadership. 

Our future depends on it.

Tomorrow’s the big OTC vote. Have you emailed your demand for a full EIS?

Climate leaders

don’t widen freeways

It’s not too late to write in and demand a full Environmental Impact Statement. We’ve got a link on our website where you can join hundreds of Oregonians who have already submitted their comments directly to the Oregon Transportation Commission, the office of Governor Kate Brown, and to ODOT themselves demanding that they conduct a full study of the health, safety, climate, congestion and air pollution implications of this $500 million freeway expansion into the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School.
click here to head to NMF website We’ve got talking points provided for you on our website; please spend five minutes letting your government know what you think about expanding freeways given all we know about climate change, induced demand, and air pollution in 2019.
Visit our website and learn more about how you can contact your legislator and go on the record asking for more a more thorough study to be conducted on this proposal.
Please share our content on social media, too – the more we spread the word and ask our friends, neighbors, and colleagues to write in, the better chance we’ll have of convincing our elected officials to stand up for cleaner air, climate justice and responsible transportation investments. Find us on facebook and twitter!

Singin’ in the rain for climate justice

It was a rainy evening last Tuesday, but that didn’t stop over 100 organizers and rabblerousers from joining Sunrise PDX and No More Freeways at our rally outside the ODOT headquarters. We wrote hundreds of postcards to the Oregon Transportation Commission, joined Sunrise leaders in singing songs, and demanded accountability from ODOT on the footsteps of their offices. We heard from youth climate activists, internet sensation Paul Rippey (who added a new verse to his song!), Neighbors for Clean Air, PPS Board Member Michelle DePass, traffic safety advocate Michelle DuBarry, NMF’s traffic engineer Brian Davis, and more. The highlight of the evening, though, was the testimony from Harriet Tubman Middle School eighth grade students Adah Crandall and Malina Yuen. You can watch their full testimony HERE or in the link to the video below.
We got great coverage of our rally on KATU, KPTV, KOIN, and BikePortland, and make sure you check out the spectacular photos of our rally from The Oregonian’s Beth Nakamura.


Harriet Tubman students Adah Crandall and Malina Yuen spoke at our ODOT rally last Tuesday. Click the image above to watch their remarks on our No More Freeways youtube page.

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🗞️ Did y’all know we even got Ted Wheeler to ask for an EIS?
(and other news updates) 🗞️

Solidarity with the #UpWithRiders campaign

No More Freeways and Sunrise PDX joined OPAL at their #UpWithRiders rally at this last week’s TriMet meeting. What a fantastic turn out. We’re pleased to be signed on to their campaign – every dollar that we divest from freeway expansion is a dollar we can spend making transit accessible, reliable, frequent, and desirable for every Portlander living in the region. Our full testimony is HERE
We even made it onto the tv!

BUT SERIOUSLY:
Today’s the Deadline.
Demand an EIS.

We sent in hundreds of postcards to the Oregon Transportation Commission, and we sent in hundreds more emails. We’ve got numerous elected officials and community organizations reaching out to demand that Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Transportation Commission take us seriously and conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement.
All we need now is you.

If you haven’t already, please, please, please take sixty seconds to drop a quick line. It’s enormously cathartic to write testimony in which you demand accountability and transparency from your local and state government. We’re hoping to get 100 more comments in the record by the end of the day – can you please join us?

We’ll be roadtripping to Lebanon for the meeting tomorrow – if you want to join us, send us a note and we can maybe carpool? The discussion is at 10:20am on Tuesday (more info here), and No More Freeways, PPS and Sunrise PDX will be there to remind Governor Brown and the Oregon Transportation Commission:

Climate Leaders Don’t Widen Freeways. 

SEE YOU TOMORROW?

ODOT ACCOUNTABILITY RALLY

Tuesday, December 10, 4-6pm 
Oregon Department of Transportation, Region 1 HQ
123 NW Flanders St 
(accessible via Old Town/Chinatown Red/Blue MAX Station, 4 8 16 35 44 77 bus lines)
Spread the word on facebook – invite your friends!

There’s a new director of a multibillion dollar state agency that
oversees the sector of Oregon’s economy that contributes 40% of the entire state’s carbon emissions. As reported by Willamette Week and BikePortland last week, the new director of the Oregon Department of Transportation appears willing to make statements in direct contradiction to decades of empirical research in order to continue the agency’s desire to widen freeways and perpetuate car-dependency for Oregonians living across the state.

image shows Joe Cortright, testifying at an OTC meeting this summer.

As our pal Joe Cortright wrote over at City Observatory last week:

ODOT Director Kris Strickler makes a phony claim that we can fight climate change by reducing traffic idling in congestion. The only feasible way to reduce congestion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to work to lower vehicle miles of travel. Unfortunately, that one proven strategy is one that ODOT has done nothing to consider or seriously explore.

click here to head to NMF website

Make no mistake: telling ODOT to knock it off with the billions of dollars for freeway expansions is nothing short of necessary if this state is serious about living up to our progressive environmental bonafides and actually doing something about carbon emissions. There are five hundred million other reasons to oppose this project, but at it’s fundamental core: we cannot build the Green New Deal without retiring the Grey Old Deal. And ODOT’s plans to spend half a billion bucks to widen a freeway into the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School, where the air pollution from the existing freeway is already so bad that students forgo outdoor recess, is exactly the environmental injustice that we need to leave behind as a shameful relic of the twentieth century.

We’re showing up at ODOT’s front door with the city’s most prominent youth climate justice advocates to ask for just that on Tuesday, rain or shine, and y’all should join.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ODOT RALLY
Tuesday, December 10, 4-6pm
 
Oregon Department of Transportation, Region 1 HQ
123 NW Flanders St 
(accessible via Old Town/Chinatown Red/Blue MAX Station, 4 8 16 35 44 77 bus lines)
Spread the word on facebook – invite your friends!

We have one week to sway the OTC. 200+ Oregonians have chimed in.
Will you join us?

Click here to visit our website and send the OTC and ODOT an email demanding an Environmental Impact Statement.

Can’t make our rally? that’s okay – you can still help us demand that ODOT conduct an Environmental Impact Statement for their proposed $500 million Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion. We’ve got a link on our website where you can join hundreds of Oregonians who have already submitted their comments directly to the Oregon Transportation Commission, the office of Governor Kate Brown, and to ODOT themselves demanding that they conduct a full study of the health, safety, climate, congestion and air pollution implications of this $500 million freeway expansion into the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School. 

Comments need to be received by December 15, in advance of the OTC’s hearing on December 17 – the sooner the better. We’ve got talking points provided for you on our website; please spend five minutes letting your government know what you think about expanding freeways given all we know about climate change, induced demand, and air pollution in 2019.  Visit our website and learn more about how you can contact your legislator and go on the record asking for more a more thorough study to be conducted on this proposal.

Please share our content on social media, too – the more we spread the word and ask our friends, neighbors, and colleagues to write in, the better chance we’ll have of convincing our elected officials to stand up for cleaner air, climate justice and responsible transportation investments. Find us on facebook and twitter!

🗞️ news roundup! 🗞️ 

Support the Rose Lane Project

 Also of note: Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and the Portland Bureau of Transportation recently rolled out one of the most ambitious proposals for climate- and transportation- justice that we’ve seen in local government in decades. The Rose Lane Project, if implemented to its full potential, would be downright transformative in making transit a more frequent, reliable, accessible option for a greater number of Portlanders’ trips across town. We heartily encourage NMF enthusiasts to check out the PBOT page about the campaign and take PBOT’s survey.  

 

NO BUT REALLY: See you tomorrow.

We’ve got an amazing speaker list, a ton of beautiful art put together by Sunrise PDX, and a chance to shout directly to ODOT that we won’t sit idly by as they widen freeways and squander the future of the next generation of Oregonians. The oceans are rising, so are we.

Holy Smokes, We Won Round One!

This month marks the second birthday of our campaign to stop the $500 Million Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion, and we are excited to share with you some pretty good news:
Victory goes to the good guys for Round One.

Image shows screenshot of recent Willamette Week article.According to a Willamette Week article published Tuesdaythe Oregon Department of Transportation is “prepared to conduct a full-blown environmental impact study for the project,” instead of the Environmental Assessment the agency produced this past February.

Holy smokes, this is massive.

We are delighted to learn that the Oregon Department of Transportation has conceded that their freeway expansion as proposed did not meet the standards expected by thousands of local community members and civic institutions.

First things first: Thank You.

button says "2000+ comment submitted to ODOT!"We’re *so* grateful for the 2000+ public comments that everyday Portlanders sent in to oppose this $500 million Freeway Expansion. You can read the thousands of comments on ODOT’s Project website (they published them after we threatened to FOIA the agency for the comments), where 90% of what they received was in opposition to the project. You can read our blog archives to see all the news coverage where opposition “dominated” ODOT’s March public hearing, and you can also see the highlights sent in by our community partners on the NMF Public Comment Page.

We also thank Portland Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, Portland Public Schools, Metro, and the Albina Vision Trust in particular for their leadership in demanding ODOT conduct a more rigorous study of the impacts this freeway expansion will have on the air we breathe, the traffic we sit in, and the rising oceans on our warming planet. These entities each wrote thoughtful, nuanced critiques of the project that ODOT had proposed and demanded that the agency address numerous critical concerns that the community raised regarding the impacts to traffic, carbon emissions, air pollution and environmental justice. This is leadership, and we are so grateful.

Photo shows community members testifying in opposition to ODOT's Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion at their public hearing last March. What’s Next: Given the considerable role our grassroots initiative played in ensuring the local community was properly informed about this project, we expect and look forward to ODOT working with No More Freeways as a crucial community stakeholder in this project as they establish the parameters of this Environmental Impact Statement. We intend to make recommendations of how ODOT and PBOT can fully comply with the letter and intent of the National Environmental Policy Act and use the EIS process to more fully and fairly assess alternatives to freeway expansion that (unlike ODOT’s current proposal) will actually address carbon emissions, air pollution, traffic congestion, and provide restorative justice to the Albina community.

Stay tuned. We’re just getting started. But holy smokes, we won the first round of our freeway fight.


It’s Been a Hot Anti-Freeway Summer

Since we haven’t sent out an update in a hot minute, we figured that, in addition to our exciting news about the EIS, we’d also provide a couple snippets as to what No More Freeways has been up to this summer. Buckle Up!


📻 NMF Visits OPB 🎙️

image shows Aaron Brown at OPB's studios

Oregon Public Broadcasting’s signature program, Think Out Loud, has been running a series of interviews reflecting perspectives on I-5. NMF’s Aaron Brown was invited on last month, and used his 15 minutes of fame to eviscerate ODOT’s boondoggle, speak about the moral imperative to divest from fossil fuel infrastructure like freeways, and explain No More Freeways’ support for the intentions of the Albina Vision Trust. If you haven’t heard it, it’s the best 15-minute run down of our campaign we’ve produced to date. Thanks to OPB for the invite!

This month, OPB’s Think Out Loud hosted Harriet Tubman Eighth Grader Malina Yuen and PPS Board Member Scott Bailey to discuss their thoughts about ODOT’s Freeway Expansion and the possible impact to Tubman Middle School. You can listen to their segment here: A few weeks previous, OPB brought on Michael Alexander to discuss the Albina Vision.

Sunrise Movement take to Metro’s #getmoving2020 task force

No More Freeways has been working with the Portland Chapter of the Sunrise Movement and students from Harriet Tubman Middle School to testify at Metro’s Transportation Task Force. The regional government has convened an advisory committee to make recommendations for the 2020 Transportation Package, and youth climate advocates have been showing up to demand that the package doesn’t include freeway expansions or additional road capacity. We’ve also been showing up for our pals with OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, who this summer launched their #UpWithRiders campaign (check out their video!)

You can read coverage of Sunrise youth’s testimony in BikePortland.org, and watch the Tubman students’ testimony on Youtube. We’ll be continuing to track the T2020 conversation; we’ve been livetweeting the #getmoving2020 hearings.

Image shows light display, projecting "Climate Leaders Don't Widen Freeways" onto ODOT's downtown Portland Headquarters

NMF Letter to OTC:
Future generations depend on a climate-smart hire for next ODOT director

“There’s no getting around this crucial fact – the decision of who to hire for the next head of ODOT is arguably the most carbon-consequential decision that the OTC will make in this young century.”

ODOT is currently in the final stages of hiring the next director of the agency (Willamette Week wrote about this yesterday). This process is being undertaken by the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC), who oversees ODOT (it’s the entity that we testified in front of this past spring). We submitted a letter last Mayarticulating the urgency that the next director of ODOT be ready to steer the statewide agency towards increased collaboration with municipal partners, prioritizing decarbonization initiatives by promoting infrastructure investments to reduce Vehicles Miles Traveled (VMT), and stopping build all these damn freeways.

You can read our full letter here.

National Publication calls ODOT’s Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion
“Highway Boondoggle” 

Image shows front cover of OSPIRG's "Highway Boondoggles 5" report.

US PIRG’s “Highway Boondoggles 5” lists the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion as one of the top nine terrible freeway expansions in the country. Yikes!
This report is especially helpful in articulating what we’ve been saying for years – there is a freeway industrial complex running amok in our state and federal governments. These projects are directly antithetical to any meaningful attempts at carbon reduction, improved air quality, or traffic congestion improvement, but there are just too many contractors and construction firms eager for untold billions of dollars of infrastructure investment, and too many politicians willing to go along for the ride.

You can read their full report here, and local coverage of their report in the Portland Mercury and the Oregonian.

Sunrise Movement Hosts Sit-in at Mayor Wheeler’s Office, Demanding End to Freeway Expansion

Image shows Sunrise Movement PDX Youth holding signs in a sit-in at Mayor Wheeler's office, demanding "No Freeway Expansions"
Image shows large demonstration in park outside of City Hall in support of Sunrise PDX and Extinction Rebellion
This June, while numerous environmental organizations staged a protest with hundreds of Portlanders outside City Hall, members of Sunrise Movement PDX held a sit in at Mayor Wheeler’s office. The youth climate advocates demanded that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a climate emergency, stop the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion, and Stop the Zenith Oil Terminal Expansion. We are thrilled to see youth climate advocates make the connection between ODOT’s freeway expansions and the likelihood of Oregon hitting our carbon targets, and will continue to support Sunrise PDX in their efforts in the months ahead. (Meanwhile, months later, Mayor Wheeler’s office still hasn’t responded to their request for a meeting).
The kids are alright.

ELECTION SEASON IS SOMEHOW ONCE AGAIN UNDERWAY

In less than nine months, Portland voters will have the chance to vote in the May 2020 primary for two city councilors, the mayoralship, as well as numerous other seats at Metro and the Oregon Legislature. We’ll send out a questionnaire next spring to everyone who runs for local office – it’s entirely possible that a majority of Portland’s five-person city council could be opposed to the project in 2021.
Image shows Sarah Iannarone speaking at her campaign kickoff.
We’re staunchly avoiding endorsements, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that Sarah Iannarone, who has been on our side for years, has thrown her hat in the race for Portland’s Mayor. Credit where it’s due – she’s testified multiple times against the project, submitted detailed public comment to the EA, and even coined the #NOI5RQX hashtag at that fateful March hearing.We look forward to hearing from all candidates running for local office about their views on ODOT’s boondoggle and how they’ll work with community groups to stop this project as elected officials. We hope to uplift the voices of any candidate that agrees that climate leaders shouldn’t widen freeways. Are you running for office and want to talk to No More Freeways? Please get in touch!

Portland Forward hosts NMF, 350PDX, OPAL to talk transportation

Image shows NMF's Aaron Brown speaking at the Portland Forward Transportation Event this summer. Thanks to Portland Forward for hosting us! We enjoyed hearing from Jesse Maran and Orlando Lopez to talk about Metro’s 2020 Transportation Package, how we can decarbonize our transportation system, and all the ways we’ve been organizing against the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion.

Legislative Session Wrap Up

Image shows students from Harriet Tubman Middle School protesting diesel engines on the Flint Avenue bridge near the Rose Quarter Freeway.
No More Freeways helped garner support for a handful of transportation justice related initiatives down in Salem during the end of the legislative session this summer! We were proud to wrangle support for:
  • HB 2007, which created the second strongest diesel engine regulations in the country (students from Harriet Tubman Middle School, above, testified in support of this in March);
  • HB 2015, which allowed all Oregonians regardless of citizenship status to obtain drivers’ licenses;
  • HB 2001, a first-of-its-kind legislation which legalized missing middle housing to create necessary housing density.
  • ..and we OPPOSED HB 3023-A, which would have given Uber and Lyft sweetheart deals to avoid local regulation on TNCs.
Big thanks and gratitude to our legislative partners including Oregon Environmental Council, Neighbors for Clean Air, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, OPAL – Environmental Justice Oregon, Causa Oregon, Sightline Institute, and 1000 Friends of Oregon for getting these important bills passed. We’ll be keeping an eye on freeway-related legislation during the 2020 short session, and we’ll be sure to let you know when we need folks to travel to Salem next January and come talk to legislators about ODOT’s boondoggles.
Donate to NMF and We’ll Mail You Stickers For your Favorite Bus Stop or Bike Rack
Look at all the progress we’ve made this summer! All of this is due to the elbow grease of hundreds of committed community members fighting for environmental justice, cleaner air, a viable climate for future generations, and healthier transportation options in the neighborhood. If that doesn’t inspire you to donate a couple bucks so we can keep up with our spitball shootin’, I know what will: our wonderful new stickers. Donate and we’ll mail you a bunch to stick on bike racks, bus stops, and outside the offices of any elected official still thinking about freeway expansion in 2019.

We’re blessed and oh-so-grateful for your help. Together, we can stop this dumb freeway.

ACTION ALERT: CHECK OUT THE NMF SINE DIE CHEAT SHEET

Hello folks! We’ve been awfully busy for the last two months (we helped some Harriet Tubman middle school students to testify at Oregon Metro’s Task Force Hearing, crashed an American Society of Civil Engineers’ meeting to gawk at the Freeway Industrial Complex, and joined some Sunrise Movement PDX youth as they staged a sit-in at Mayor Wheeler’s office in City Hall). We’ve got all sorts of shenanigans up our sleeves in the months ahead; every bit of evidence suggests ODOT intends to continue lurching forward with spending untold hundreds of millions on this fossil-fuel infrastructure that will give more kids asthma and won’t even solve congestion.

In the meantime, though, if you thought ODOT was dysfunctional, incompetent and felicitous with the truth, have you heard what has been going on in Salem

The Republicans have finally returned from their vacation in Idaho, content to pass the bare minimum legislation possible that democratic supermajorities have moved through countless committees and votes, and have been passed by the Oregon House of Representatives. The following pieces of legislation are sitting in the Senate ready for a vote. Unfortunately, the legislative session ends on Sunday, and inevitably they will have to pick and choose which pieces of legislation to prioritize.

The good news is: you can email your legislators *today* and demand that we move forward with any and all of the following bills. Whether you’ve emailed and called your legislator a dozen times or don’t even know who your legislator is, please drop them a line at your earliest convenience, for any and all of the following legislative initiatives for housing, climate, and transportation justice:

VOTE YES ON HB 2015: Drivers licenses for all. No More Freeways stands in solidarity with Causa Oregon and PCUN for transportation justice for all Oregonians, regardless of citizenship status, because we’re not racist assholes. Contact your legislator here.

DSC_0448
VOTE YES ON HOUSE BILL 2007: Clean up Dirty Diesel. The Oregon Trucking Association is vigorously fighting a bill that would require truckers to stop using the most outdated, unhealthy diesel engines. Diesel is connected to an outrageous litany of adverse public health impacts, and the victims are too often low-income and communities of color near freeways (like our students at Harriet Tubman Middle School). You can read Timber Jim’s testimony and email your legislator here:
VOTE YES ON HB 2001: Missing Middle Housing. Legalizing duplexes and triplex in the urban core of Oregon’s cities means more homes for families in dense, walkable communities. The bill would be transformative for lowering neighborhood carbon emissions, providing more housing affordability and opportunities for Oregonians to enjoy low-car life.

VOTE ON HB 2020 It was 115 degrees in France today. The headlines out of the arctic are astonishing. The oceans are rising. NMF acknowledges the numerous good-faith critiques from environmental justice communities about cap and trade, but the bill has a lot of great details worth reading about in full, including language that would help discourage new revenue from being spent on new freeways. 

 

Each of these bills have passed through numerous committees, and are just sitting, waiting for the Senate Republicans to return to vote. Call/email legislators to demand we can’t wait another two years. Don’t know who your legislator is? Look ’em up.

Even if your legislator is a rock star and supports all of these, they deserve a note of appreciation for their diligence and public service during a miserably grim, dark time for Oregon democracy.

And while you’re at it, you can tell them: no more freeways.

2000+ Letters to ODOT

Greetings, fellow freeway rabblerouser! We’ve been awfully busy in the last two months. Here’s a recap of what we’ve been up to, where we’re heading, and how you can help us stop the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion. We haven’t emailed you in a while, so we have quite a few updates.

TLDR: The public comment went great, we’re testifying at committees across the state, we’re building grassroots power and momentum to stop this freeway, and if you want to help you can buy a button at the bottom of this post!

Resounding Opposition to Rose Quarter Freeway in Public Comment Period.
Will ODOT listen?

image includes NMF logo and text stating we received 2000+ comments on the public comment period

First, let’s give ourselves a pat on the back for the overwhelming turnout we got for the entire public comment period. Freeway opponents dominated the public hearing event in March, and followed that up with submitting over 2000 public comments to ODOT before the April 1st deadline. We have a round-up of dozens of letters from prominent community leaders on our public comment page of our website – here’s a selection of some of our favorite letters submitted:

“We ask that ODOT undertake a more rigorous Environmental Impact Statement to study the impact that implementation of value pricing could have on carbon emissions, air pollution and traffic congestion before moving forward with plans to expand the Rose Quarter Freeway. This position is wholly consistent with our years of advocacy and engagement with the state legislature to pass HB 2017 – implementation of value pricing should inform how ODOT moves forward with the Rose Quarter. There are simply too many significant impacts to the local community to not prioritize studying value pricing and understanding its impacts to traffic patterns before moving forward with a $500 million freeway expansion.” – Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Climate Solutions, Center for Sustainable Economy, and Sierra Club – Oregon Chapter

“The EA states (section 3.2.2) that the project does not create new capacity or add substantial capacity to I-5. This statement is not objectively true and is potentially misleading; auxiliary lanes clearly add capacity” – Oregon Metro

Photo shows Harriet Tubman Middle School right next to the Rose Quarter Freeway“We find it unjust to ask current and future Tubman students to pay decades of bonding debt to pay for this project, as well as pay for the enormous costs of the additional carbon in the atmosphere and air pollutants in the neighborhood. As parents, citizens, community members, students, and Portlanders, we state our firm opposition to ODOT’s Rose Quarter freeway widening proposal.” – Parents from Harriet Tubman PTSA

“Given the large and growing role of transportation in the State’s GHG emissions, the mandate to decrease emissions to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, the inadequacy of the EA, and the history of damage to the adjacent communities inflicted by the freeway, it is the position of 350PDX that ODOT should not move forward with the I-5 Rose Quarter freeway widening project based on the Environmental Assessment and should instead complete a full Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the effects of the project.” – 350 PDX

image shows Business for Better Portland's logo“Given the legacy of institutional racism in Portland and how it has manifested in the location of this project, it is imperative that our leaders act with respect, courage and integrity. We are calling on leaders to tap the brakes on this project and ensure $500 million in taxpayer funds are thoughtfully invested in projects that deliver community benefit while paying more than lip service to equity.” – Business for a Better Portland

“Portland has long been known for its bike- and pedestrian-friendly allure and strong transit grid, and we know we must do more in order to preserve Oregon’s cherished natural beauty and livability. In light of the dire IPCC report issued last year, I believe we must be scrutinizing each major initiative and doing all we can, as fast as we can, to ensure a livable planet for our future generations.” – Oregon Representative Karin Power (District 41)

“The Oregon Department of Transportation is an emperor wearing no clothes, If we have any meaningful commitment to alleviating gridlock and congestion, eradicating the senseless violence of traffic fatalities, improving air quality so school doesn’t make kids sick, restoring a neighborhood scarred by the worst racist impulses of our forefathers, or tackling climate change for current and future generations, this project must be abandoned. The Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion mega project has no place in our community.”

– No More Freeways submitted our own official letter, as well as a Technical Traffic Analysis debunking ODOT’s findings and this Legal Memo that details all of the points in which ODOT’s public comment process did not follow the NEPA process.

We encourage you to check out the Public Comment page of our website, which includes these and numerous other letters, including those from the Audubon Society of PortlandEliot Neighborhood AssociationCommunity Cycling CenterCity of Portland Commissioner Chloe EudalyAlbina Vision TrustPortland Planning and Sustainability Commission, and BikeLoudPDX.

What’s next for the RQ Freeway?

image shows NMF logo, text ODOT is now tasked with responding to each and every single one of the 2000 comments that we sent in to the public comment period. We are hopeful that the dozens of prominent community advocates and thousands of Oregonians who testified and wrote letters to point out the egregious flaws in ODOT’s traffic projections will help prod the agency to redesign or reconsider this project. It’s noteworthy the number of advocacy organizations, advisory committees, and citizens who have asked ODOT to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement – we hope the agency will honor these requests before proceeding with spending $500 million to expand a freeway into the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School when we as a planet have eleven years to tackle climate change.

According to a PBOT presentation at the Bureau Budget Advisory Committee this month, ODOT is expected to hear back from the Federal Highway Administration this “May/June” as to whether they have permission to proceed with their Environmental Assessment or if they will be asked to conduct the more thorough Environmental Impact Statement that all of our organizations requested.

TL, DR: We’re awaiting the federal government’s verdict on if ODOT can proceed with the project, and we expect to hear in the next few weeks. Our next steps in using the NEPA process to challenge this project depend on whether the federal government pushes ODOT to honor the community’s unequivocal voice of opposition to this expansion. Whatever happens, we’re ready to act (especially with your support – see the donation link at the bottom).

NMF road tripped to Salem to speak to the Oregon Transportation Commission.

The Oregon Transportation Commission is the Governor-appointed body that establishes state transportation policy. We weren’t sure if this governing body had been given accurate information from ODOT’s staff about how the agency had conducted themselves during this Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion debacle, so this month we took a quick trip to Salem to testify about the data misinformation, the overwhelming opposition to the project, the fierce, unapologetic necessity about urgently reconfiguring our transportation policy so that current and future Oregonians won’t have to grapple with a charred dystopian planet.

image shows Bob Sallinger of Portland Audubon Society testifying at OTC hearing
“[The Audubon Society of Portland was] deeply troubled by the Environmental Assessment. I work on a lot of EAs and EISs; its kind of what I do. For a project of this scale, complexity and cost, the EA was one of the weakest I’ve ever seen. It simply did not provide the kind of detail in order to assess the costs, benefits, the impacts, the alternatives that i would expect for a much smaller project, let alone something for a half a billion dollars.”

“The essence of democracy is transparency and honesty on the part of public servants. If we’re going to make good decisions we have to do it in an open honest and transparent way. in the case of the I5 Rose Quarter project, what’s happened hasn’t served the interests of the citizens of Oregon well. What ODOT has done is to suppress basic traffic data; they released an environmental assessment that contains no figures on average daily traffic, the most fundamental unit that you regularly use to measure traffic.”


“An Oregonian born today is likely to be alive in 2100. If we have 11 years to solve climate change, I hope that every single one of you on this Commission – and I’m not trying to be antagonistic, I’m asking and begging you, as the youngest person in this room that will remember this meeting 50 years from now – what did Chair Baney do, what did the Oregon Transportation Commission do when provided with these facts?”

Harriet Tubman Middle School’s Earth Day Demonstration

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The kids are alright.

Kudos to the students of Harriet Tubman Middle School in Mr. Scrutchion’s class who partnered with Neighbors for Clean Air to demonstrate in support of HB 2007 on the Flint Avenue overpass on Earth Day. Diesel is a carcinogen, a greenhouse gas, and has no place in our community and in our children’s lungs. We’re thrilled that the campaign to stop the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion is bringing transportation, climate, and clean air advocates together to cross-pollinate in our advocacies and build resilience against infrastructure that makes our community sick. We’re looking forward to continuing to partner with the Tubman community in support of cleaner air and fewer lanes of freeway in their backyard.

More photos are available on BikePortland, and on the NMF Facebook page (which you should *like*, if you haven’t already).

10 public comments at Metro’s #GetMoving2020 task force. All 10 were about climate change. 

Photo shows Jesse Lopez of 350PDX giving testimony at a meeting of Metro's Task Force on the T2020 Transportation Package

The Metro Council is currently planning to refer a massive transportation funding package to the Portland Region on the November 2020 ballot. This enormous package is something that the No More Freeways campaign has been keeping an eye on for a while – this once-in-a-generation opportunity could be used to fully fund infrastructure that decarbonizes our transportation system effectively, or could direct billions of dollars to roads, highways and freeway projects guaranteeing that the greater Portland region meets none of our anti-congestion, anti-carbon emissions, anti-air pollution or anti-poverty initiatives. It’s a big deal!

After Metro President Lynn Peterson’s recent remarks at Portland City Club event suggesting that the 2020 bond might be split “50/50” between transit and road projects, we decided to swing by the Task Force meeting last week and testify. We’ve got twelve months to push heavily on the Metro Council and the numerous community groups on the Metro Task Force to urge them to make this package better for current and future generations by honoring our commitment to investments in a transportation system that addresses climate change, air pollution, fixing congestion, and traffic safety (hint: to do these things, we can’t build more freeways). Kudos to the representatives from Portland Forward, 350 PDX, OPAL – Environmental Justice Oregon, The Street Trust, and others who testified and made it explicit: this regional package *must* be designed with climate justice and decarbonization as a top tier priority.

We’ll continue to monitor this committee – the next meeting is at 5:30 Wednesday, May 15 at Oregon Metro (600 NE Grand), and you’re encouraged to join us in attendance in the crowd.

Shoutout to the Community Partners

It takes a village (and numerous community partners) to stop a freeway. Here’s what some of our trusted allies are up to, and how you can support them:
Support Local Media: Shoutout to BikePortland.org and Willamette Week, each of whom have relentlessly covered our work over the past few months. Did you know you can donate money to each to keep these important media outlets afloat?
image shows invitation to Oregon Walks Membership PartyBecome a Member of Oregon Walks: Oregon Walks has a new Executive Director, and you should learn all about her at the upcoming Oregon Walks Membership Meeting. The event is on Thursday May 16.

Sign OPAL’s letter for government accountability and transparency: OPAL’s been tracking a particularly nefarious bill in the Oregon Legislature that would remove the ability for local jurisdictions to have much oversight or regulatory ability of TNCs like Uber and Lyft. Sign their letter (and help protect initiatives like the Clean Energy Fund while you’re at it!)

Fight Dirty Diesel: To learn more about HB 2007, which would create deadlines for removing the worst polluting diesel engines from Oregon’s streets, check out the Oregon Environmental Council’s webpage. Stay tuned – there will be opportunities to weigh in on this bill as it winds through the legislature in the weeks ahead.

A personal note: Aaron Brown’s testimony to ODOT, submitted 4:59pm, April 1st

For the past nineteen months (and especially for the past month and a half), I’ve spent an enormous amount of my own personal and professional time writing angry letters to ODOT. “Letters to ODOT” sounds like the name of some urban planner’s regrettable punk rock band they played bass in back in college, but it adequately assesses the general state of how I’ve spent much of 2019. I, along with literally hundreds of other community members, have been attending dozen of community meetings and watching ODOT’s staff speak demonstrable untruths with barely-concealed slights-of-hand, and spent many a rainy weekend pouring through egregiously depressing data about climate change, air pollution, traffic congestion, and traffic fatalities. Every bit of evidence furthers our case that this project highlights the urgency with which metropolitan America needs to retire the freeway industrial complex.

But instead, with my last five minutes before the public comment period closes, I want to write a quick love letter. A love letter to the dozens of parents I met at Tubman Middle School, figuring out how to build a PTSA that will stick up for their entire community and learn how to work together despite having students and families from enormously different backgrounds. A love letter to the individuals who have taken their personal trauma stemming from losing a loved one to senseless traffic violence and weaponized these unspeakable losses into voices that clamor for government agencies to be more vigilant in their investments to prevent future tragedies. A love letter to the youth who are increasingly organizing to take over the world and prevent the older generation from dooming us to climate apocalypse. A love letter to the hundreds of community members who have shown up to dig through ODOT’s public records and, frankly, out-hustle ODOT’s staff to point out the obvious clerical errors that you hoped to hide from public scrutiny. A love letter to the good community members and citizens who have stood up for freeway revolts in the past, present, and future of my hometown. A love letter to all who are working to understand the intersections of transportation, climate, social justice, white supremacy, the patriarchy, and are working to untangle all of these for a more verdant and sustainable future.

Thank you, ODOT, for giving me an excuse to wallow in the trenches for the past few months. Please kill this damn project.

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