Summer Updates from No More Freeways

screenshot of Oregonian story with headline "ODOT pumps brakes on two major freeway projects amid budget crisis, tolling pause"

ODOT cancels I-205 expansion, RQ finances looking pretty dire- thanks to you.

First, the big news – holy smokes, ODOT just cancelled one freeway expansion and all-but-cancelled the Rose Quarter. As reported in The Oregonian and The Portland Mercury, in late June at the request of Governor Kotek the Oregon Department of Transportation released a finance plan that explained what we knew all along – ODOT simply doesn’t have the money for these monstrously expensive freeway expansions. The finance report noted that the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion is now expected to cost $1.9 BILLION (originally billed as $450 million in 2017) and noted that they have no forseeable plan to raise that revenue.

We continue to share this news with the federal government, hoping that they will deny ODOT a Finding of No Significant Impact and require the agency to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement that studies alternatives to expansion.This, uh, is spectacular news. To quote No More Freeways co-founder Chris Smith:

“No More Freeways is delighted to learn that the Oregon Department of Transportation proposes indefinitely postponing expansion of Interstate 205 even as the agency acknowledges they simply do not have a path forward to fund the now $1.9 billion Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion. These are both massive victories for any Oregonian who enjoys clean air, safer streets, a hospitable planet, and fiscal responsibility from their state government. Now more than ever, No More Freeways continues to insist that ODOT conduct a thorough Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion that studies alternatives to expensive freeway expansion that reduce congestion while bringing clean air and justice to the Albina neighborhood.”

This is a cause for celebration! Which brings us to….

Celebrate our sixth birthday with Sunrise PDX on 8/31

It was six years ago this July that Chris Smith convened  a dozen of us at a brewpub to discuss how to fight the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion, which had just received $450 million in funding from the state legislature the month previous. An awful lot has happened since then – 2 lawsuits (and counting), multiple rallies, a yearlong youth climate strike, thousands of public comments, coverage in national media, over $110 million in funding from ODOT to consultants and highway lobbyists, and more hours of hearings and committee meetings than we care to count. We have *so* much to celebrate – and Sunrise PDX is throwing us a birthday party to reflect on our victories and discuss what lies ahead for officially killing the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion and directing our state to invest in transit, biking and walking instead of more lanes of polluting, costly freeways. We’re so grateful for the year long Youth Vs ODOT climate protests which garnered national headlines and put more pressure on elected officials to give more scrutiny to our state’s transportation department. Join us on August 31 at Laurelhurst Park (please note the new location!)Representative Khanh Pham will be there to celebrate with us as well! and cake. We’ll have some delicious cake.

Sunrise PDX celebrates No More Freeways’ Sixth Birthday Party

Thursday August 31st

5:30-7:30

Laurelhurst Park – Picnic Area “A” (on the eastside of the park near SE 35th and Oak) Stay tuned for more information on a pedalpalooza ride to the event as well!

Speaking of Representative Khanh Pham….

Rep Pham’s BikePortland op-ed shows opportunities for 2025

“I’m heartened by the growing consensus I’m hearing from legislators and Oregonians alike across the state that this status quo is untenable, and it’s time to prioritize addressing these problems for the health and well-being of both our communities and the economy.” – Rep Khanh Pham

We were honored to get a shoutout in Rep Khanh Pham’s op-ed in BikePortland last month. Her piece highlights the successes that transportation advocates have won through advocacy, organizing and engagement in the state legislature. Go read it!

Joe Cortright eviscerates the IBR, legislature in the Oregonian this week

“In future years, when the climate crisis is getting worse, when ODOT’s budget is in worse shape, when we don’t have enough money in the general fund to pay for schools and other public services, when there isn’t money to deal with orphan highways and deadly roads that kill cyclists and pedestrians, when we’re cutting public transit service, when pavement is deteriorating, you’ll be able to look back and see one decision that made all of these problems worse: the Legislature’s 11th-hour backroom deal to squander a billion dollars-plus in general funds on the Interstate Bridge Replacement.” – Joe Cortright

Oooof. Go read it yourself.

Action Alert! Tell Metro: No More Freeways in the Regional Transportation Plan

The Regional Transportation Plan is an important document – and we need your help telling Metro to stop planning to fail to meet our goals for climate and traffic safety. No More Freeways submitted our own letter with specific policy recommendations on how to lower carbon emissions and eliminate traffic fatalities (while our current system is doing the literal opposite, with deadly consequences) – but we need your help to make sure elected officials understand that their constituents are demanding bold change. We can make all of the investments in a greener, healthier future with the billions of dollars saved by not widening freeways. We shouldn’t build more freeways, and our planning documents shouldn’t continue to plan for building more freeways, either.

Join No More Freeways in submitting written comment – the deadline is August 25. Go submit comment now so we don’t have to remind you again!

Invest in a future with No More Freeways

As you can see, we’ve been awfully busy – on our shoestring budget, No More Freeways and our partners have been able to stymie the multi-billion dollar freeway industrial complex. Despite already spending $110 million on planning and propaganda for the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion, ODOT is running out of options to find a way to convince policymakers that their horrible freeway expansion is worth the massive billion dollar price tags they bring. With skyrocketing traffic fatalities and 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions from transportation, reallocating our transportation funding away from toxic, polluting freeways towards healthier, sustainable, equitable investments in transit, maintenance and street safety has never been more urgent.

Can you chip in a couple bucks to help us cover the cost of our birthday party? Maybe you’ve got more than a couple bucks that you can spend to help us cover the cost of our excellent lawyers? Whether you donate $15, $50, $500 or $1500, every dollar goes towards our labor of love to imagine a future with No More Freeways. Plus, we’ll mail you a card and a button. We’re fiscally sponsored by 501c(3) Portland Transport, so your donations are tax deductible. Thank you so much for your support.

Exciting News: I-205 Expansion is DEAD, Rose Quarter not lookin’ too hot either.

“No More Freeways is delighted to learn that the Oregon Department of Transportation proposes indefinitely postponing expansion of Interstate 205 even as the agency acknowledges they simply do not have a path forward to fund the now $1.9 billion Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion. 

These are both massive victories for any Oregonian who enjoys clean air, safer streets, a hospitable planet, and fiscal responsibility from their state government. Now more than ever, No More Freeways continues to insist that ODOT conduct a thorough Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion that studies alternatives to expensive freeway expansion that reduce congestion while bringing clean air and justice to the Albina neighborhood.”

– Chris Smith, cofounder, No More Freeways

Background information:

  • No More Freeways believes the most appropriate path forward is a full Environmental Impact Statement for the entire Urban Mobility Strategy, rather than the divide and conquer approach currently being used to minimize the impacts of each project and ignore their cumulative effects.
  • ODOT’s proposed I-205 expansion was listed as one of the worst transportation projects in the country in USPIRG’s “Highway Boondoggles” report in 2022. The Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion was listed in an earlier report published in 2020.
  • NMF’s community members submitted over 300 comments in opposition to the I-205 Expansion during the public comment period last spring, including technical comments pointing out the explicit violation of federal environmental protection law. NMF has also submitted over 3000 comments on the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion throughout two public comment periods, and has filed two lawsuits challenging the proposed freeway expansion along with co-litigants Neighbors for Clean Air and the Eliot Neighborhood Association. 
  • This higher pricetag also don’t include the additional $120 million that the state legislature allocated in 2021 to Portland Public Schools for the proposed relocation of Harriet Tubman Middle School; the proposed expansion is literally in the background of the middle school campus. ODOT repeatedly hid from the public renderings that showed the exact plans to move the freeway closer to the school, and deliberately obscured from the public the adverse additional air pollution this freeway would bring to what is already considered the school with the worst air quality in the state. As of 2019, approximately 68% of Tubman’s students identify as nonwhite.
  • In 2017 ODOT claimed that the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion would cost $450m in 2017. The price tag is now as high as $1.9b, over four times the original cost. The agency blames inflation and design changes, although No More Freeways believes the true costs of the project lie with the oversized additional road capacity and the inherent exorbitant costs to cover such a wide freeway.
  • ODOT’s Urban Mobility Office will be presenting their financing options to the Oregon Transportation Commission, the entity which oversees ODOT and meets virtually on Wednesday June 28. This report was requested by Governor Tina Kotek as part of the tolling moratorium her office introduced this May.
  • The legislature made little progress towards addressing the numerous problems with our transportation system – no meaningful investments or policy changes to address the skyrocketing traffic fatalities, 700 seismically vulnerable bridges, massive backlogged maintenance needs, clean air or transit unreliability faced by Oregonians in every community in the state. Abandoning these freeway expansions allows the state government to instead pursuing funding for alternative transportation investments, and No More Freeways strongly encourages legislators to act on this opportunity and make meaningful holistic investments in the upcoming 2025 legislative session. 

Freeway Fight Moves to Salem and We Need You!

This post written by No More Freeways co-founder Chris Smith.
You can also read it on BikePortland. Please share widely!

Fighting freeway expansion is a marathon, not a sprint, but right now we need to sprint to Salem.

Longtime advocates who have followed our freeway fights know that a decade ago we battled the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) to a standstill, only to have the freeway lobby shift their expansion efforts south to Rose Quarter. While ODOT is still  grappling with trying to find a design that satisfies multiple stakeholders (and fill a $1 billion funding hole), expansion advocates have revived the CRC with the Orwellian name of the Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR).

The IBR project team is more sophisticated than a decade ago; they’ve already spent something on the order of $10 million on greenwashing communications pushing their narrative that we have to replace this bridge before it collapses in an earthquake (and inflation drives the price tag up even further) while soft pedaling the five miles and seven interchanges of freeway expansion that are not related to the seismic concerns of the existing span.

But our side has also gotten more sophisticated. No More Freeways is part of the 33-member Just Crossing Alliance (JCA) to make sure that an eventual bridge replacement is centered in environmental and climate justice. JCA members truly do want to see the existing bridge replaced, but only with a right-sized bridge with excellent transit options that doesn’t include billions of dollars of wasteful spending on additional freeway interchange expansions. We fear that without significant oversight from the Oregon Legislature, ODOT and the IBR team will stumble forward with a bloated, massively oversized project that will once again fail to deliver a new bridge because of agency hubris, exorbitant cost overruns, and numerous forms of likely litigation related to the Coast Guard’s concerns and advocates’ insistence ODOT’s freeways pass basic scrutiny of environmental law. 

Virtually every major ODOT project in the past twenty years has gone substantially over budget, robbing the state of billions of dollars we need for other crucial statewide transportation investments. 

Here’s why we need your support right now.

The current center of the battle is legislation to provide Oregon’s “down payment” of $1 billion on the $7.5 billion  project. The imaginative proposal from the Joint Transportation Committee: borrow it from future General Funds (the ones that pay for housing, education, health care) and future gas tax and vehicle registration fee revenue (when ODOT already says it cannot maintain the roads adequately). In other words, we’ll force our kids to pay for it, while neglecting to fund the basic road safety, climate, seismic and maintenance initiatives that we should pay for ourselves at present to prepare for our children’s future.

The JCA believes that the Oregon Legislature should honor their obligation to financial stewardship of the state’s limited resources by only providing funding with stipulations directing ODOT to right-size this proposal. The legislature has the power of the purse string to put specific guardrails on this project to demand ODOT explore options like a lift bridge or a tunnel that would significantly reduce costs and project bloat, ensuring Oregon has the resources we need in the years ahead for the substantial investments in transit, passenger rail, street safety and maintenance across the state. This financial commitment from the state will allow ODOT to continue to pursue federal funding to assist with this project and keep the IBR on schedule without committing to the disastrously oversized project as currently proposed, along with its attentive cost overruns. 

Join Just Crossing Alliance in Salem on April 13

The 33 member organizations of the Just Crossing Alliance will be in Salem next week for a Day of Action on April 13th showing legislators there’s a more responsible path to ensure this bridge gets built to our community standards without bankrupting the state. We’ll be focusing on our Right Size, Right Now campaign with our SAFER platform:

  • Size Matters
  • Accountability
  • Fund Transit & Safe Bike, Walk, and Roll
  • Environmental Justice
  • Resilient to Earthquakes

We’re a people-powered campaign and we need you to join us. You can help by:

This is the most significant opportunity for us to demonstrate to legislators across the state that Oregonians are eager to support good transportation investments that don’t bankrupt the state, don’t fry the planet, and don’t fill our communities with air pollution.  Can you join us?

Many community advocates will be taking the 7am Amtrak Bus leaving Union Station. Tickets still available – come ride down with us!

Thank you. (and see you 1/19?)

TL; DR: No More Freeways has so much to be thankful for, and we’re having a Happy Hour to celebrate all of our volunteers on Thursday, 1/19, 4:30-6:30 at The Waypost in N Portland. Hope to see you there so we can thank you and celebrate our accomplishments organizing for a future with No More Freeways!

We asked, and once again, you delivered.

Thanks to the hundreds of you who submitted a letter during the Public Comment for the proposed $1.4 Billion Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion. Thanks especially to those of you who wrote letters on behalf of your organizations, from Verde to Oregon Walks, Oregon Families for Safe Streets to 1000 Friends of Oregon.We some of the best comments submitted on our website.

Thanks to our diligent team of advocates, lawyers and traffic engineers that helped No More Freeways submit our official testimony in opposition to the project, along with 12 gigabytes of files of video, academic literature, public records, historic documents and photos to be included in the public record.

Thanks to the dozens of you who attended our People’s Public Hearing last week at Harriet Tubman Middle School, and shared stories about the urgency of investing in traffic safety, climate action, livable streets and clean air – and no more freeways. Thanks also to the dozen of you who volunteered – over the holidays no less! – to make this event work.You can watch full video of the event on our webpage; be sure to check out the testimony from Michelle DuBarry with Families for Safe Streets, Ukiah Steiner-Halloran, with Rural Sunrise Oregon, and Paul Rippey’s epic song about Induced Demand.

Thanks to the dozens of you who wrote postcards to Governor Tina Kotek, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and ODOT’s planners demanding a full Environmental Impact Statement. We love to send snail mail!

Thanks to everyone who read about our freeway fight in the past few weeks. The Portland Mercury published a fantastic write up about the street safety concerns, BikePortland got some terrific portraits of testifiers at our event, and Portland once again got a nod in the New York Times for our struggles against freeway expansion. Our folklore hero Paul Rippey also got national coverage in Bloomberg!

No More Freeways will be having an informal “Thank You” party for everyone who was involved with the public comment period. This is your chance to grab a drink and celebrate our accomplishments against the freeway industrial complex, and learn more about what we’ve got lined up in the weeks and months ahead. Waypost has both indoor and covered outdoor seating available.

No More Freeways volunteer appreciation party

Thursday, January 19
4:30-6:30pm
The Waypost
3120 N Williams
accessible via 4, 24, 44 TriMet bus lines

2022 Year in Review for No More Freeways

circular blue no more freeways logo

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)

graphic has a photo of Henry Wrinkler, aka FONSIE, with a caption "Feds Rescind FONSI" explaining that the federal government removed ODOT's finding of no significant impact.

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

Photo of a crowd of fifty teenagers holding says saying "climate leaders don't widen freeways" in front of Harriet Tubman Middle School

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

No More Freeways in the New York Times

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

image shows a photo of the proposed IBR with the IBR logo with text "Hey Metro! Protect Our Future!" and the words "climate arson" are written over the IBR logo.
This January, No More Freeways and Sunrise rallied letters to the Metro Council demanding they set parameters around the Interstate Bridge Replacement.

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

screenshot of Oregonian article with headline "Judge rules ODOT failed to comply with public records request"

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.

EMAIL ODOT TODAY!

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

photo shows a dozen climate teenage strikers, holding sighs saying "youth vs odot" and "fund futures not 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.

Thank you for your support.

ODOT has millions of dollars. But we have you.

Here’s the thing about fighting the Oregon Department of Transportation: we’re an army of Davids against a massive Goliath.ODOT is a massive state agency that consistently pays literal millions of dollars to consultants and traffic engineers to find ways to hide from the public that they want to spend billions of dollars on roads that’ll give kids more asthma, give our communities more congestion, and give our climate more chaos.

  • ODOT attempts to charge us exorbitant fees for public records requests. ODOT doesn’t even fully disclose everything they should on the few public records requests they do provide, which earned ODOT a visit to court to be reprimanded by a judge.
  • ODOT spends God knows how much sending shiny but factually inaccurate (and embarrassingly typo-ridden) mailers to thousands of people.
  • When faced with criticism for lack of community engagement, ODOT refuses to alter the plans for the project but instead redesigns the logos of the proposed freeway expansion to better appropriate the neighborhood that ODOT intends to fill with air pollution.
  • ODOT hires air quality experts to study their proposed freeway expansion without giving them any of the data that would allow them to actually study the hazardous air.
  • ODOT refuses to share the most basic details of their highway projects with the public, treating facts like “how wide is the proposed freeway” as some sort of state secret.
  • ODOT hid from the public – and from Portland Public Schools! – their plan to widen the freeway into the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School.
  • The agency has repeatedly lied about the cost of their freeway expansion and hasn’t built a freeway that didn’t go ridiculously over budget in the past 20 years – check out Rep Khanh Pham’s editorial in the Oregonian about the cost overruns on the Interstate Bridge Replacement.

Yet the thing is, despite their political power and might – our scrappy little campaign is winning. Thanks to the valiant effort of countless Oregonians, our held-together-by-scotch-tape-and-bubble-gum campaign has spent the last five years consistently, effectively shooting spitballs, catching their every sleight-of-hand buried in 400 pages of technical documents, filing public records requests, filling board rooms and zoom calls with passionate and morally-correct testimony, coordinating with nonprofits and local elected leaders to demand restorative justice for Albina shouldn’t come with strings – or auxiliary lanes – attached.With countless hours of all-volunteer labor over the last five years holding the agency accountable, ODOT is against the ropes, publicly claiming they’ll start construction on the Rose Quarter next year despite the numerous lawsuits, massive cost-overruns and lack of coherent funding sources, and community organizations expressing opposition that stand in their way. While we’re scrappy, not everything is donated – we spend money on fliers, on social media ads, on buttons and stickers on events, on this e-mail service, on public records requests, on legal assistance, and yes, on buttons.

What can you give to help us slay this Goliath?

Every dollar you give unlocks so much more volunteer hustle. Donating to No More Freeways is an enormously cost-effective investment in halting the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, in stopping the increase of air pollution in our neighborhoods, in a fiscally-responsible state agency that invests in street safety and transit instead of traffic congestion and air pollution. We have a litigious year ahead, and candidly, we’ve got a lot of money to raise in the next few weeks to make sure we can hold ODOT accountable for this miserable Environmental Assessment. Please consider throwing a few bucks to the NMF legal fund as part of your end-of-year giving.Whether you have a large check, a medium check, or a small check to write, we’ll happily mail you a thank you card and a button and/or sticker for your support.

Thank you!

NMF 2, ODOT 0: In Second Legal Victory for Freeway Fighters, ODOT Withdraws Findings of Local Compatibility for Rose Quarter

ODOT again cowers in the face of community demands for accountability and transparency, refuses to defend their work in a court of law; second time in last four months agency has withdrawn critical approvals to avoid scrutiny 

PORTLAND – The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has once again retreated from a critical approval step for the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion to avoid having to defend their work in court.

In April 2021, ODOT issued “findings of compatibility” with Portland’s Comprehensive Plan. The following month, ODOT was sued at the state level by No More Freeways, contending that ODOT’s proposed freeway was wider and more impactful than the facility plan that Portland first approved in 2012 and later incorporated in the Comprehensive Plan. The case had moved to the Oregon Circuit Court after the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) decided that they didn’t have jurisdiction. No More Freeways challenged the finding of compatibility on grounds that numerous specific details of ODOT’s proposed expansion did not align with the city’s tentative approval of the project back in 2012.

“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,” said Aaron Brown, a co-founder of No More Freeways. “Despite the agency’s continued arrogance and bluster, this legal result is further proof that ODOT is simply unprepared to be held accountable by community leaders demanding clean air, safer streets and climate action.”
    “Community 2, ODOT 0,” said Chris Smith, a co-founder of No More Freeways. “Elected officials should take note that No More Freeways and our partners will continue to use the tools at our disposal to demonstrate how ODOT’s proposed freeway expansions are legally incompatible with any coherent, desirable vision of a region with cleaner air, reduced traffic congestion and fewer carbon emissions.”

“ODOT is a climate villain. The agency is actively making the climate crisis worse and has been too busy greenwashing their proposed expansions to adequately respond to our legitimate demands for climate accountability and transparency,”  said Adah Crandall, a teenage climate advocate and organizer with Sunrise PDX. “It’s clear that these proposed expansions have no place in a livable future, and we will continue to organize until our elected officials find the guts to stand up to ODOT and demand they invest in our futures instead of more freeways.” Leaders of Sunrise Movement PDX have been hosting a bi-weekly “Youth Vs ODOT” climate strike for over a year, which has been attended by numerous elected officials at local and state government. Adah Crandall is a co-organizer of the Youth Climate Strike planned outside Portland City Hall on Friday May 20th; the event is expected to draw a crowd of thousands. The Portland Climate Strike names the Oregon Department of Transportation as one of the four local “climate villains.” “We see the clear connection between transportation and climate and refuse to allow our leaders to build projects that will increase our emissions,” said Crandall.

Opposition to ODOT’s proposed freeway expansions garnered national attention last month, with longform coverage of the ongoing advocacy of youth climate activism and freeway skepticism in an April 21 article published in the New York Times. ODOT was also named as one of four “climate villains” by the organizers of the Youth Climate Strike on May 21st, which drew a crowd of thousands.

This legal announcement follows the January decision by the Federal Highway Administration to rescind the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion as part of a reevaluation of the project . This FONSI was the subject of a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) lawsuit filed by co-plaintiffs No More Freeways, Neighbors for Clean Air and the Eliot Neighborhood Association in April 2021. The lawsuit alleged that ODOT did not conduct a thorough study about the impacts this proposed freeway expansion would have to the neighborhood, and demanded that ODOT conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that considered alternatives that didn’t include widening the freeway. The agency legally cannot move forward with the proposed expansion without this specific federal declaration.

“ODOT’s abject failure to follow the law is causing significant delays, increasing the already exorbitant pricetag for this proposed boondoggle through massive legal costs and dramatically rising inflation,” said Joe Cortright, a co-founder of No More Freeways and a Portland-based economist. “ODOT currently doesn’t have a Finding of No Significant Impact, doesn’t have a land use compatibility statement, and doesn’t have a plan to raise the billions of dollars necessary to build this monstrosity of a freeway expansion. ODOT is currently funneling millions of taxpayer dollars to consultants to continue to mislead the public that there is any feasible path forward for this deeply flawed proposed freeway expansion in its current form. We once again urge Governor Kate Brown and other local officials to acknowledge this current state of affairs and order ODOT to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement that studies affordable alternatives to freeway expansion.”

Plaintiffs in the case are represented by attorneys Sean Malone, the Law Office of Karl G. Anuta, and Mike Sargetakis. 

Community Advocates Declare Round One Victory over ODOT on Proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion

PORTLAND – Weeks after the Federal Government rescinded the Record of Decision for ODOT’s proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion, co-plaintiffs No More Freeways, Eliot Neighborhood Association and Neighbors for Clean Air officially withdrew their federal National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) lawsuit against the project filed last April. The voluntary dismissal was done “without prejudice” meaning that the plaintiffs reserve the right to sue again when ODOT’s re-evaluation of the environmental impacts is complete.

“This legal decision formalizes what we’ve said for weeks: community advocates concerned about air pollution, traffic congestion and climate change have won round one of the fight against ODOT’s proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion,” said Aaron Brown, an organizer with No More Freeways. “Now would be an excellent time for local elected officials to pressure ODOT to acknowledge what we’ve all known for years: a polluting freeway expansion this large and disruptive to the community should be subject to a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that studies alternatives to spending billions on additional lanes of freeways. If necessary, No More Freeways stands ready and willing to refile a NEPA complaint in the months ahead to achieve the basic demand that ODOT do their homework and conduct an EIS.”


    “The Eliot Neighborhood Association is pleased to see that the federal government’s pressure has motivated ODOT to reassess the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion,” said Allan Rudwick, a spokesperson of the Eliot Neighborhood Association and parent of future students at Harriet Tubman Middle School.  “We know that ODOT has not done honest assessments of the traffic impacts or safety impacts of this project. We know that ODOT is lying about the air pollution their freeway will cause, and that their claims that this project improves traffic safety are dubious. Our neighborhood remains concerned about the impacts the existing highway has on our lungs and are determined to fight any change to our road network that does not move us in a cleaner direction. We continue to demand that ODOT conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement that studies alternatives to freeway widening.”

    The Federal Highway Administration announced in January their decision to rescind the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion as part of a reevaluation of the project. This FONSI was the subject of a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) lawsuit filed by No More Freeways, Neighbors for Clean Air and the Eliot Neighborhood Association last April. The lawsuit alleged that ODOT did not conduct a thorough study about the impacts this proposed freeway expansion would have to the neighborhood, and demanded that ODOT conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that considered alternatives that didn’t include widening the freeway. The agency legally cannot move forward with the proposed expansion without this specific federal declaration.
    In addition to the NEPA lawsuit, No More Freeways has also filed a lawsuit in Oregon Circuit Court, challenging ODOT’s asserted findings of compliance with Portland’s Comprehensive Plan. This case is actively continuing.

ODOT published a widely-critiqued draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed freeway expansion three years ago. Advocates uncovered that the agency hid from the public numerous crucial documents in their EA, including basic details about the width of the proposed freeway and the impacts to the air pollution at Tubman Middle School. The federal government issued the FONSI in November 2020 that was challenged by plaintiffs in April 2021. 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. 

No More Freeways’ independent analysis of ODOT’s traffic projections found that ODOT included multiple egregious errors and outdated assumptions to try to prop up the agency’s dubious claims that this freeway expansion would improve 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 leaders demanding a full EIS in March 2019 included then-Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, State Representative Karin Power, Metro, Audubon Society of Portland, Business for Better Portland, Oregon Walks, The Street Trust, Albina Vision Trust, the Eliot Neighborhood Association, the City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees, the Planning and Sustainability Commission, and many more. Metro’s letter calling for an EIS called ODOT’s claims that this project wasn’t a freeway expansion “not objectively true and is potentially misleading.” Subsequent calls for an Environmental Impact Statement were made later in 2019 by other leaders including then-House Speaker Tina Kotek, Representative Rob Nosse, Senator Michael Dembrow, and Mayor Ted Wheeler. 

Skepticism of the proposed freeway expansion continues to grow, even from institutions historically aligned with freeway construction. Without a current Record of Decision from the federal government, ODOT is legally unable to move forward with the project. As the Oregonian reported in January, the proposed freeway expansion also currently faces a $500 million shortfall, a number that has surely increased in recent months with rampant inflation. Oregon Transportation Commissioner Julie Browh expressed skepticism whether the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion and other road expansions truly represented a statewide priority at their March meeting held last week.

PRESS RELEASE – Federal Government rescinds approval of proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion

The Federal Highway Administration announced Wednesday a decision to rescind the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion as part of a reevaluation of the project. This FONSI was the subject of a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) lawsuit filed by No More Freeways, Neighbors for Clean Air and the Eliot Neighborhood Association last April. The lawsuit alleged that ODOT did not conduct a thorough study about the impacts this proposed freeway expansion would have to the neighborhood, and demanded that ODOT conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that considered alternatives that didn’t include widening the freeway. The agency legally cannot move forward with the proposed expansion without this specific federal declaration.

“We are delighted to see that the federal government has revoked the Finding Of No Significant Impact for the Rose Quarter freeway expansion project,” said Aaron Brown, organizer with No More Freeways. “No More Freeways has said for a long time that ODOT has not meaningfully studied the disastrous impacts this proposed freeway expansion would have to our community. We look forward to continuing to encourage Governor Kate Brown to demand that ODOT complete an Environmental Impact Statement that will study alternatives to freeway expansion. We must find a way to support efforts to heal this neighborhood and build community-led freeway caps without allowing ODOT to displace two public schools, clog our neighborhood streets, pollute the air our children breathe, or destroy the planet they stand to inherit.”

“This decision gives ODOT, the Oregon Transportation Commission, the City of Portland and the Metro Council yet another chance to abandon the project and take a different approach to transportation for a better future.” said Allan Rudwick, co-chair of the Eliot Neighborhood Association, another plaintiff in the April 2021 lawsuit. “We remain concerned about this project disrupting our streets and discouraging development for years of construction before increasing traffic, congestion and pollution for future generations.”

“This decision is a victory for the integrity of requirements that legitimate and robust environmental impact analysis is a critical obligation of any publicly funded project,” said Mary Peveto, Executive Director of Neighbors for Clean Air. “The community has a right to know the true health and environmental cost of ODOT’s proposed expansion, and rescinding approval of the FONSI is an admission that this was not done on this project. ODOT must provide a full Environmental Impact Statement that provides data demonstrating exactly how much air pollution their proposed expansion will provide to the Albina neighborhood.”

“Young people have protested since April 2021 demanding a rapid decarbonization of our region’s transportation systems, a full EIS for the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion, and a paradigm shift towards alternatives to freeway expansions,” said Adah Crandall, an organizer with Sunrise PDX. “We are grateful to see ODOT finally held accountable for their neglect to fully study the impacts of this project, which is a direct threat to our communities and climate.”

Adah Crandall is a sophomore at Grant High School and an organizer with Sunrise Movement PDX. She’s a founder of the “Youth Vs ODOT” campaign, in which teenagers have held biweekly strikes outside ODOT’s downtown Portland office since April 2021. The recurring protests have drawn crowds of hundreds and attention from national press and policymakers, with visits and speeches in support of their cause from State Representatives Khanh Pham, Wlsvey Campos, and Maxine Dexter.

ODOT published a widely-critiqued draft Environmental Assessment for the proposed freeway expansion three years ago. Advocates uncovered that 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. The federal government issued the FONSI in November 2020 that was challenged by plaintiffs in April 2021. 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. 

No More Freeways’ independent analysis of ODOT’s traffic projections found that ODOT included multiple egregious errors and outdated assumptions to try to prop up the agency’s dubious claims that this freeway expansion would improve 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, Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission, and Business for a Better Portland. 

Community groups concerned about the displacement of Tubman Middle School and King Elementary School have brought increased scrutiny of the proposed expansion. ODOT’s proposed expansion would move Tubman students into the building currently held by Northeast Portland’s King Elementary; hundreds of parents and students protested the potential closure with a march last Friday.

Plaintiffs in the case are represented by attorneys Sean Malone, the Law Office of Karl G. Anuta, and Mike Sargetakis. The full complaint can be accessed on the No More Freeways website. Wednesday’s response from the Federal Highway Administration is also available on the NMF website

ACTION ALERT: Tell OTC #NOTADIME for More Freeways

The Oregon Transportation Commission is, ostensibly, the entity that that oversees the Oregon Department of Transportation. Given recent headlines about how scary the climate apocalypse is getting and also how truly terrible ODOT has been on drawing up a meaningful climate action plan, you’d think the OTC would be issuing orders for ODOT to prioritize investments in public transportation, biking and walking instead of freeway expansion.

#DontLookUp

Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. At this point, the OTC seems eager to continue obliviously promoting the status quo and allowing ODOT to move forward with spending billions of dollars on freeway expansions all over the Portland region while traffic fatalities on ODOT’s orphan highways continue to skyrocket, carbon emissions continue to rise, and the agency gets increasingly skeptical press coverage from The Oregonian.

Thanks to the passage of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, the OTC will be responsible for directing how ODOT should spend upwards of $1.2 billion in federal money. No More Freeways joined the Clean and Just Transportation Network on a letter to the OTC last month demanding investments in transportation infrastructure that reduces carbon emissions instead of increases them.

Now, No More Freeways is calling on you to join us. We need you to email the Oregon Transportation Commission and tell them to invest in green transportation options – and no more freeway expansions.

If you’ve ever wanted to speak directly to individuals responsible for oversight of ODOT’s carbon emissions, and the political body theoretically capable of pushing the agency to a greener future, we need you now to drop the Oregon Transportation Commission an email. You can share your climate story, your frustration with abysmal transit service across the Portland region (and across the entire state), or your anger at ODOT’s unwillingness to invest to stop rising traffic violence. This is your chance to demand that Oregon’s appointed officials rise to the challenge that this political moment requires and push for a greener, less polluting ODOT.

#NotADime

Potential talking points:

  • ODOT should only invest in projects proven to reduce carbon emissions
  • Support the policy recommendations made by the Clean and Just Transportation Network.
  • Support the policy demands made by the youth climate justice leaders at Sunrise PDX as part of their ongoing YouthVsODOT strike.
  • Every federal dollar should support a Green New Deal to Build Back Better, not a Grey Old Deal that continues to pave over the entire state of Oregon.