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and transparency, refuses to defend their work in a court of law; second time in last four months agency has withdrawn critical approvals to avoid scrutiny 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.

Metro votes on the IBR Thursday. Will the Metro Council fight for a green bridge?

Back in November, we asked you to contact the Metro Council and demand that they prioritize climate as they move forward with an MTIP amendment to give more funding to the Interstate Freeway Expansion (they’re calling it the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program, or IBR, even though they are hardly “replacing” anything.) As Joe Cortright has relentlessly documented, the current iteration of the IBR will produce 100,000 tons of carbon emissions a year, ODOT’s traffic projections are older than some of the Sunrise youth, Metro’s falling woefully short of their carbon goals, and the project is directly antithetical to the planning process that Metro actually exists to undertake.

Y’all responded, big time. Metro received 300+ emails from across the region, each of you demanding that the elected leaders demonstrate their commitment to reducing carbon emissions by asking ODOT tough questions about how the proposed freeway expansion would impact carbon emissions, air pollution and traffic congestion.

Unfortunately, the Metro Council didn’t hear you, and therefore needs to hear from you again. Metro wrote to advocates in a letter this week stating that they believe the proposed budgetary allocation included in the MTIP amendment is ultimately necessary for ODOT to have the resources to study the climate impacts as the advocates have been demanding.

We’re skeptical of that, to say the least. There are deep flaws in ODOT’s process and proposal. Allowing this to proceed now and failing to ask tough questions now, will make it far more difficult to insist on getting honest answers later on. We need our leaders to hear from us how we expect them to hold ODOT accountable to not setting the planet on fire before their vote on Tuesday.

the youth are alright

We need you to contact the Metro Council and urge them to commit to drawing a line in the sand and opposing any iteration of a proposed Interstate Bridge Replacement that increases vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Simply put, we cannot spend billions of dollars to encourage more driving with more lanes of freeway as the planet slides into climate chaos. The region desperately needs to invest in transportation infrastructure to connect Portland with Vancouver and SW Washington; ODOT and WSDOT are not proposing anything but the failed status quo of continued freeway expansion they’ve delivered at great cost for decades.

Here’s three ways you can help, right now:

1 – Attend today’s YouthVsODOT climate strike outside Metro.

full text caption available at link of instagram site - provides details about youth vs odot week 18 event
See you at the strike?

Today (Wednesday, January 5th), the Sunrise youth’s bi-weekly climate strike moves across the river. The YouthVsODOT strike (garnering plenty of local and national attention lately) will be held outside the Metro Council building. In attendance will be members of No More Freeways, testimonials from the teenage climate activists with Sunrise PDX, and Beaverton City Council candidate Kevin Teater. We will be handing out postcards to write to the Metro Council pleading for climate action.

Bring a K95 mask; we hope to see you there!

Wednesday January 5
4:30-6:00pm
Metro Regional Center (we’ll meet in the Plaza)
600 NE Grand
Portland OR 97232

2 – Testify to the Metro Council during the hearing Thursday morning.

Want to speak to your elected officials directly? Metro Council will be taking public testimony before their vote on the morning of Thursday, January 6. Metro’s website has the link to the zoom, and provides information on how to sign up to testify virtually:

Those wishing to testify orally are encouraged to sign up in advance by either: (a) contacting the legislative coordinator by phone at 503-797-1916 and providing your name and the agenda item on which you wish to testify; or (b) registering by email by sending your name and request to testify on AGENDA ITEM 4.3 to legislativecoordinator@oregonmetro.gov. Those requesting to comment
during the meeting can do so by using the “Raise Hand” feature in Zoom or emailing the legislative coordinator at legislativecoordinator@oregonmetro.gov. Individuals will have three minutes to testify unless otherwise stated at the meeting.

3 – Write the Metro Council an email asking if we can trust them with our future.

Will this $5 billion, ten lane freeway expansion be the legacy of the Metro Council?

Can’t make it to either event on Wednesday or Thursday? You can still send the Metro Councilor an email before their vote Thursday morning. Use our form below to remind the Metro Council that we are counting on brave, unapologetic climate leadership, and that climate leaders don’t widen freeways. No More Freeways is asking Metro to

  1. delay approving the MTIP amendment for additional funding until ODOT provides a public hearing to learn more about the project, and
  2. pass a resolution about Metro’s vision for the bridge proposal, with specific language detailing how the agency will only support a project that reduced carbon emissions and vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

Thanks for your support – let’s make sure Metro knows we’ll have their back when they side with the planet over the freeway-builders!

Fill out the form below to email the Metro Council:

2021 Year In Review: Destroying the Grey Old Deal to Build The Green New Deal

It’s the end of the year, which means its time for the fifth annual (!) No More Freeways year-in-review, in which we tell you all about what a busy year we’ve had fighting ODOT and the freeway industrial complex. If you’re grateful for our accomplishments, we encourage you to join our newsletter and consider throwing a few bucks to our freeway fighting fund.

No More Freeways Sued ODOT. TWICE.

This, unsurprisingly, was our big news of the year. In early April, No More Freeways joined with co-plaintiffs Neighbors for Clean Air and the Eliot Neighborhood Association and filed a lawsuit against the federal government demanding a full Environmental Impact Statement that studied alternatives to freeway expansion for tackling the traffic congestion at the Rose Quarter. We also wrote Secretary Pete Buttigieg a letter stating our concerns about the federal government’s approval of ODOT’s Environmental Assessment, encouraging him to revisit the project, and followed up in July.

Pretty cool to see it in print like that, yeah?

In our main federal NEPA lawsuit, seeking a full Environmental Impact Statement and consideration of pricing and transit alternatives to the I-5 Rose Quarter “Improvements”, the court has finalized a date by which ODOT and the FHWA must produce the record of the decision making process for their Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The case will then be argued later in the spring.

Our second suit at the state level contends that ODOT’s findings of compatibility with Portland’s Comprehensive Plan are flawed and premature since ODOT continues to redesign the project. There is relatively little case law in this area and the Land Use Board of Appeals has recently decided that they do not have jurisdiction. That means that the case will now move to Oregon Circuit Court where we’ll have the opportunity to depose and take testimony from officials involved in making the findings.

Our litigation earned significant local media coverage, and got picked up by national publications including Streetsblog and Bloomberg’s CityLab. You can read our full complaint here.

hundreds attend tubman rally

In one of the first in-person events many of us attended since May 2020, No More Freeways partnered with the Eliot Neighborhood Association to hold a rally at Harriet Tubman Middle School to celebrate our lawsuit and demand a full Environmental Impact Statement for the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion. We were blessed with numerous amazing speakers, including former Tubman students and teachers, advocates from Oregon Walks and Neighbors for Clean Air, and youth climate justice advocates.

youth vs odot: EIGHTEEN weeks and counting

Check out Robin’s speech from a Youth Vs ODOT climate strike in August.

It started with a simple idea from Aurelia, a sixteen year old climate organizer with Sunrise PDX, who posted on the slack channel: “I want to hold a climate strike to stop the freeway.” After the first rally in April brought about a small crowd, the recurring strike has met outside ODOT every other week since, growing considerably in size. The recurring protest is to call attention to the Sunrise PDX demands of ODOT and Governor Brown, including a moratorium on freeway expansion within the Urban Growth Boundary and a youth climate justice member appointed to the Oregon Transportation Commission. The group has been meeting outside the ODOT headquarters every other week since then, with crowds as large as 75 people in the summer. The Sunrise youth have started gaining national press attention (and more is coming) for these strikes, and more importantly, local elected officials are paying attention. State Representative Khanh Pham attended in September, pledging to push for more accountability and transparency from ODOT and more legislative scrutiny on their proposed freeway expansions. YouthVsODOT has since also hosted Representatives Wlnsvey Campos and Maxine Dexter, and the General Climate Strike that drew a crowd of thousands took a deliberate tour in front of the ODOT building in September. Advocates from Sunrise PDX have appeared on KGW’s Straight Talk with Laural Porter, OPB’s Think Out Loud, and in the Portland Mercury to share their demands. Most recently, Sunrise wrote a letter demanding that any infrastructure funding from the federal government should be spent on projects that reduce driving.

The YouthVSODOT rally continues to meet every other Wednesday; join us for week nineteen Wednesday, January 5th, 2022 outside the Metro Council in advance of their vote to allocate $35 million more for the proposed revival of the Columbia River Crossing. Learn more on the YouthVSODOT Instagram page.

legislative wranglin’ in salem

flyer for NMF’s opposition to HB 3055

No More Freeways helped organize hundreds of postcards and emails to elected officials in Salem opposing a bill that would give greater bonding authority for ODOT to spend more money on freeway expansion. Our efforts to stop House Bill 3055 represented the first time that No More Freeways organized in earnest at the legislative level of government, after spending much of the past few years working at municipal, regional, gubernatorial and agency-specific entities.

Senate floor vote on HB 3055

As we wrote in our written testimony on HB 3065 (the predecessor to 3055), “As our planet lurches towards climate catastrophe, it’s imperative that local and statewide elected officials hold ODOT accountable to investing in infrastructure that doesn’t further clog our community with cars, pollute our children’s lungs or set on fire the planet they stand to inherit.”

Sunrise protest outside Governor Brown’s house, July 2021

While our efforts gained significant attention from local media, the Oregon Legislature voted to pass HB 3055 on the final day of session. In what can only be considered coincidental timing, the vote to pass the bill was held mere days before Oregon’s catastrophic climate-induced heat wave, in which temperatures reached over 116 degrees and over 100 Oregonians died. After the bill was passed, we turned our attention to Governor Kate Brown, who eventually signed the bill despite Sunrise hosting an organized protest outside Mahonia in Salem.

While we still believe the vote represents a gross abdication of responsibility from the Oregon Legislature to hold ODOT to any meaningful goals on climate or transportation reform, we were heartened to see a handful of votes in opposition to the bill. A special shoutout is in order for Rep Campos, as well as Senators Kathleen Taylor and Michael Dembrow, who voted against the measure. Speaker Tina Kotek also voted against the bill, citing a need for ODOT to work on “right sizing projects,” although she played a significant role in getting the bill to the floor for a vote.

Furthermore, as another silver lining, advocates including Rep Pham, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, Oregon Walks and APANO successfully won funding from the legislature to fund a complete retrofit to 82nd Avenue, ODOT’s dangerous highway that runs through the Jade District. 82nd Avenue was the location of two tragic traffic fatalities this spring – that’s two more traffic fatalities than the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion has seen in decades. Let’s hope that legislators find opportunities to fix the rest of the orphan highways in the state, including locally TV Highway, Barbur, McLoughlin and Powell. Clearly, ODOT fixing these dangerous streets should be a top priority over freeway widening…

Thanks to public records, We caught ODOT lying a buncha times

For a public works project with a proposed $1.2 billion project and countless millions spent on public relations and community engagement, you’d imagine ODOT staff would have ample resources to provide information to any member of the public inquiring about the impacts this expansion would have on our community. Curiously, though, No More Freeways spent over three months asking ODOT staffers (as well as testifying at numerous bodies including the state legislature and the Oregon Transportation Commission) a very basic question: how many feet wide is the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion? Joe and Aaron testified to the Oregon Transportation Commission in January asking this question, but ultimately, ODOT treated this simple fact as a state secret.

Ultimately, as Willamette Week reported, City Observatory obtained through public records requests numerous documents showing that ODOT’s proposed freeway expansion is 160 feet – wide enough for ten full lanes. When ODOT was confronted with this, ODOT’s staff said they were working with TriMet to exploring building bus rapid transit lines, but as Willamette Week reported, that seems to be a dubious claim.

No More Freeways and City Observatory also caught ODOT directly lying to the Historic Albina Advisory Board about the air pollution that this freeway expansion would bring to the Albina neighborhood, claiming they hired independent air quality experts to assess the project while not giving the researchers opportunity to review ODOT’s corrupt traffic projection data.

The maps ODOT didn’t want you or PPS to see.

Our public records requests also found documents showing that ODOT planned to take PPS land in Tubman’s backyard for the freeway expansion, and apparently hadn’t told the school. The response? Well, instead of demanding that ODOT find ways to minimize air pollution by implementing congestion pricing instead of freeway expansion, Governor Kate Brown and the state legislature seem prepared to offer PPS tens of millions of dollars to relocate Tubman; latest news suggests they will displace another historically Black elementary school in the process. Stay tuned; we’re coordinating with the Tubman PTSA and other neighborhood education activists to track PPS’s plans.

the zombie bridge is back: New Name, Same Columbia River Crossing

ahhhhh the zombie freeway expansion that ODOT tries to call a bridge replacement is back!!!!!

ODOT and WSDOT are bringing the band back together!

After spending $200 million on consultants over a decade to ultimately build nothing, ODOT and WSDOT are once again beating the drums about the need to spend approximately five billion dollars on a ten lane, five-mile freeway expansion across the Columbia River. The project has been re-branded as the “Interstate Bridge Replacement Project,” but as Ryan Packer has reported at BikePortland, all of the iterations of the project currently being studied essentially recycle the previous plans for the proposed freeway expansion from over a decade ago.

In our first call-to-action for the CRC 2.0, we got hundreds of people across the Portland region to email the Metro Council and ask for them to demand specific concessions from ODOT to study alternatives to freeway expansion before allocating the agency another $35 million further in study. No More Freeways also signed onto a letter asking Metro to postpone the vote until after a public hearing on the project.

We are eager to continue working with partners including 1000 Friends of Oregon, The Street Trust, and Oregon Environmental Council to track this gargantuan freeway expansion and push for a sensible alternative. Stay Tuned!

Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion Stumbles Forward with “Hybrid 3”, but Funding still a challenge

In September, the Oregon Transportation Commission voted to approve “Hybrid 3” for the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion, in a deal brokered by Governor Kate Brown. This proposal represents a fairly successful set of improvements to the surface level plans for the proposed expansion. As No More Freeways wrote in our testimony to the OTC, we are delighted to see that the Albina Vision Trust and the Historic Albina Advisory Board have been able to successfully advocate for positive outcomes for the community. Their continued leadership, moral clarity, and commitment to wealth generation and healing what was the largest Black neighborhood in the state of Oregon is commendable and inspiring.

However, as we’ve said for years – we don’t have to widen the freeway to add caps and heal the Albina neighborhood. The core objections of our NEPA lawsuit – that ODOT deliberately manipulated traffic data and refused to study congestion pricing ahead of freeway expansion – remains intact despite these significant improvements to the original surface-level plans. As we wrote in our testimony:

There is no need to expand the freeway in order to cap it. An alternative to
cap the existing highway should be studied. Maintaining the existing roadway
dimensions makes potential caps cheaper to build, healthier for the community,
less polluting, and more capable of supporting additional housing and community
space. We find it puzzling that ODOT has never given the community the
opportunity to consider alternatives to adding additional polluting freeway lanes,
especially given that congestion pricing studies by ODOT’s own consultants
suggest the additional freeway lanes aren’t necessary to reduce traffic
congestion.

Despite the unanimous vote in support of Hybrid 3, there’s still no plan to fund the project, which has seen cost increases to over $1 billion. The OTC insisted these extra costs should be born by local governments like the City of Portland, Multnomah County or Metro; the OTC was expected to hear a funding proposal at their December meeting, but that was curiously postponed. Stay tuned to see how ODOT tries to cobble together the enormous funding – and remember, the proposed buildable caps would be cheaper, healthier, easier, and greener to build without widening the existing freeway below. The only way to study these alternatives legitimately demands a full Environmental Impact Statement.

other miscellaneous odds and ends

Front Page of The Oregonian
Go Ka’sha!

What’s in store for 2022?

2021 was clearly a big year for No More Freeways, and the pace only seems to increase as ODOT gears up to build more freeways and we gear up to fight them. As The Portland Mercury reports, there’s an awful lot of money coming into ODOT’s pockets from the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. No More Freeways joined numerous partners with the Clean and Just Transportation Network to write this letter to the Oregon Transportation Commission, following a similar letter from Sunrise PDX, demanding that the OTC only invest in projects that reduce carbon emissions. We also expect ODOT to continue to push hard on the Interstate Bridge Replacement, and for our lawsuits to advance. Stay tuned!

And now, a note from Aaron Brown, co-founder of No More Freeways:

Hey ODOT – which side are you on?

It sure has been a helluva year for our humble freeway fight. I’m often asked why I’ve spent so much of my life volunteering on this campaign; aside from being very stubborn, the best answer I’ve got is that No More Freeways has brought together so many inspiring people putting in the elbow grease to rid their community of the Grey Old Deal so we can make space for the Green New Deal. Every foot of auxiliary lane we stop leads to millions more dollars for transit and sidewalks, as well as cleaner air and more congestion-free commutes. As we lurch into the climate apocalypse, every single foot of removed freeway is worth fighting for. And we’re so grateful for the leadership from the teens from Sunrise – their moral clarity, bravery, intelligence, and ability to righteously demand climate leadership is deeply affirming. We can only hope to do them right.

No More Freeways and our partners are using every tool at our disposal to dismantle this Grey Old Deal and freeway industrial complex – we’ve got protests in the streets, we’ve got lawsuits, we’ve got public testimony and letter-writing campaigns to targeted elected and appointed officials, we’ve got a litany of allies in environmental and transportation justice organizations we work with closely across the state, and we’ve got policy wonks churning out white papers envisioning a transportation system for a better Oregon.

When you donate to No More Freeways, you’re giving our all-volunteer team the resources to continue to pursue public records requests, hire excellent (and deeply discounted) NEPA lawyers, promote our campaigns on social media and yes, to make sure we’ve got plenty of buttons and stickers to hand out.

A generous anonymous donor has pledged to give up to $5000 in matching donations for our freeway fight fund. Whether you can give $5000, $500, $50, or $15, every dollar makes a difference – and we’ll be sure to mail you some buttons and stickers, no matter how much you give.

See you in 2022! Rest up – we have a lot more freeways to fight.

Joe, Chris and Aaron at the Tubman Rally. Photo credit Jonathan Maus

Action alert: tell metro council: “NO CLIMATE, NO BRIDGE.”

NO CLIMATE, NO BRIDGE

Have you heard about ODOT’s Interstate Bridge Replacement Program?

Well, in the past few years, ODOT and WSDOT are making an effort to revive this project. And despite the flowery rhetoric, as BikePortland recently reported, every single one of the proposed options for the IBR that have so far advanced include a full ten lanes of freeway, and only minor commitments to transit or pricing. The project – already a financial and climate disaster even by the standards of 2012 – is even more shocking to see proposed a decade later, in a year in which every elected official claims they care about Building Back Better with climate-smart infrastructure.  

To be clear, No More Freeways agrees that we need better transportation options across the Columbia River. It’s important to replace an important and seismically vulnerable structure. The miserable congestion and the air pollution it causes should be addressed with pricing in a way that minimizes traffic, not maximizes revenue for ODOT. Transit expansion should be prioritized in funding and policy with any proposed expansion, including looking at options to invest in high speed rail or commuter rail using the BNSF bridge downstream. There’s mindboggling potential to create tens of thousands of jobs, lower carbon emissions, empower communities with transit options, and address congestion through smart policies and investment.

Unfortunately, ODOT is doing none of these things, instead spending over $5 million on communications and PR alone to try and fool the public while proposing essentially the exact same failed plans for a massive freeway expansion, with microwaved, leftover blueprints from ten years ago. If you’d like more information on all the ways the Columbia River Crossing 2.0 is the same disaster as the last one with more PR, you should definitely check out Joe Cortright’s run down in City Observatory.

Local elected officials have an opportunity to demand that ODOT study an iteration of this proposal that does not increase carbon pollution. It seems completely unobjectionable that the We could be building a true replacement for the existing bridge that invests in transit, congestion pricing, and high speed rail and doesn’t increase capacity for more cars – but curiously, ODOT and WSDOT won’t commit to studying any iteration that deviates much from the original failed CRC plans from ten years ago. And they won’t study iterations that only have the existing six lanes of freeway.

Fortunately, Metro has an opportunity to demand that ODOT prioritize climate investments – and can withhold money if the agency doesn’t comply.

And we need your help to give the Metro Council the guts to do just that.

This month, the Metro Council will vote on whether or not to amend the MTIP, which would include allocating an additional $36 million from Metro to the Interstate Bridge Replacement. Metro Council President Lynn Peterson and Jo Ann Hardesty have already voiced their concerns about the project’s lack of focus on climate; a coalition of advocates (including No More Freeways) echoed these sentiments in a letter sent last week

Metro could withhold this money until ODOT pledge to study an alternative of this project that would be carbon neutral by ensuring that the new bridge does not induce more driving. This would be consistent with the position that Metro Councilor Juan Carlos González took this summer, when he pledged to vote against any further freeway expansion. The Metro Council has already expressed significant skepticism for this proposal, in a work session as recently as this past month.

No Climate? No Bridge. 

The Metro Council needs to hear from you: can they call themselves climate leaders while giving ODOT money to move forward with freeway expansions?

Please email your Metro Council, and help share our content. In your testimony, mention your name, what Metro District you’re in (look it up here), feel free to share your personal story why you care about stopping freeway expansions. Do you have a story about climate anxiety? Do you want to see investments in better transit instead? Are you worried about air pollution throughout N/NE Portland that will come with widening I-5? Do you want to see funding instead spend on ODOT’s numerous other dangerous arterials, including TV Highway, 82nd Avenue or McLoughlin?

As ODOT gears up to receive over a billion dollars from the recently passed federal Infrastructure Bill, it’ll be incumbent upon all of us to persuade local, regional, and statewide leadership to demand that every dollar ODOT spends is in accordance with our climate, equity, health, and congestion relief goals. This represents the first opportunity for freeway fighting advocates to loudly demand the Metro Council hold the line with ODOT on climate. 

Tell the Metro Council to Stand up to ODOT. 

No Climate? No Bridge. 

No More Freeways Statement on Proposed Tubman Relocation

As reported last week by The Oregonian and Willamette Week, Governor Brown has indicated a willingness to work with Portland Public Schools to find funding for the relocation of Harriet Tubman Middle School. We’re grateful to see the Oregonian speak extensively to Adah Crandall, a former Tubman student and current Grant High School sophomore, about her concerns that PPS and the Governor need to be as worried about carbon pollution as they are about air pollution. The official No More Freeways statement is below:

“For years, No More Freeways has elevated community voices concerned about the pollution ODOT’s proposed freeway expansion would bring to the Albina neighborhood, and we’re thrilled to see Portland Public Schools join us in fighting for their students’ unambiguous right to clean air. It’s difficult to imagine ODOT’s expansion providing restorative justice to the Albina community when it’s evident the pollution from the extra lanes will give nearby residents even more asthma, dementia and cancer. Moving Tubman might allow ODOT to outrun poor air pollution for students, but it will be impossible for students to outrun the rising oceans or wildfires exacerbated by the freeway expansion’s bloated carbon emissions. We implore Governor Brown to demand an Environmental Impact Statement to fully understand the impacts ODOT’s proposed freeway expansion would have on our community, our lungs, and our planet. As smoke fills our state and drought threatens our waters, nothing less than an EIS is acceptable to current and future generations demanding action commensurate to the scale of the climate emergency.”

ACTION ALERT: ASK GOVERNOR BROWN FOR CLIMATE LEADERSHIP, VETO HB 3055

This past weekend, the Pacific Northwest was hit with an unprecedented, lethal climate disaster. The temperatures above 115 degrees melted wires, buckled roads, and led to the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Canadians. As of July 1st, Multnomah County is reporting 65 deaths, a number that’s almost certain to rise over the days and weeks ahead.

Sunrise PDX teenage climate strikers, holding their Week 5 climate strike outside of the Oregon Department of Transportation in opposition to HB 3055.

This same weekend, the Oregon Legislature also voted to approve HB 3055, which would give ODOT a blank check to bond against toll revenue indefinitely to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on freeway expansions. 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation. Paying for freeway widenings off of tolling is like paying for coal plants with the revenue from a carbon tax – the whole point of the funding mechanism is that it’s supposed to disincentivize certain activities and create a stable revenue system to spend on building new infrastructure that helps retire the socially bad behavior.

Governor Brown has an opportunity to cement her legacy as either an unapologetic champion for climate action by vetoing this bill and demanding ODOT focus on preparing for a low-carbon future, or just going down in the history books as yet another politician unwilling or unable to stand up to the powerful interests, agencies and institutions that profit from the destruction of our communities, our state, our planet.

Governor Brown’s wouldn’t be standing alone by staking a position against this bill. Freshman Representative WLnsvey Campos voted NO on HB 3055B, saying “As someone who deeply believes that it is urgent we act to halt climate change with all possible avenues, I could not in good conscience vote in favor of an infrastructure bill that doesn’t address the biggest threat of our lifetime.” House Speaker Tina Kotek, an original champion of the bill, also ultimately voted against the legislation, citing concerns about the need for ODOT to right-size their projects. Senators Michael Dembrow and Kathleen Taylor also voted against the measure after receiving emails from dozens of constituents over the last week pleading for desperate climate action.

Screenshot of the vote on HB 3055 in the Oregon Senate. Senators Kathleen Taylor and Michael Dembrow were the only two Democrats to vote no (and they did so because of the dozens of messages sent in by NMF constituents!)

There is undoubtedly a need to invest in infrastructure to alleviate traffic congestion as we (hopefully) leave the pandemic in the rearview. ODOT’s freeway expansions will not do a damn thing for congestion.

There is undeniably a need for economic stimulus and job creation from building infrastructure. The state could create 70% more jobs by investing in road maintenance, as well as biking, walking, and transit investments instead of freeway widening.

We urgently need to address the state’s horrific epidemic of traffic violence, with over 400 Oregonians dying every year on our streets. ODOT’s urban freeways, however, are among the most safe facilities we have – and the agency is responsible for decades of divestment on orphan highways like TV Highway, McLoughlin Boulevard, SE Powell and N/NE Lombard that are the location of the overwhelming majority of traffic fatalities in the Portland region.

Finally, with the state bracing for unfathomably grim wildfires this summer, as well as increased flooding, rising oceans and droughts in the years to come, it’s unconscionable to give ODOT a blank check to spend all of their money on freeways that will only cause more carbon emissions. ODOT could be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on passenger rail, frequent bus service, light rail, sidewalks, bike lanes, intercity buses, transit electrification – all of which would address congestion for our growing state and create more jobs while lower carbon emissions.

HB 3055 is a step in the wrong direction. As Governor McCall once said, “Some highway engineers have a mentality … that would run an eight-lane freeway through the Taj Mahal. That is our problem.” This is an opportunity to push Governor Brown to channel Governor McCall and leave a similar legacy – that Oregon will take immediate action to reduce our transportation-based carbon emissions and be a national leader in decarbonizing our transportation system.

No More Freeways’ letter to Governor Brown demanding a veto on HB 3055:

No More Freeways’ testimony to the Oregon Senate opposing HB 3055:

What to write in testimony:

  1. Who are ya? Include your full name, and if you feel comfortable, give your address as well.
  2. Be specific with the bill number: Make sure you mention in the first line or two that you’re writing in to oppose HB 3055, the ODOT Freeway Slush Fund.
  3. Personalize the letter! If you already wrote your legislator, congrats – you can recycle virtually the same language for the Governor. You don’t have to be a policy expert on the legislation to have an opinion; in fact, for the majority of the people writing in, personal stories and experiences are likely more important to share at this point. If you’re feeling climate anxiety as these wildfires pick up, be sure to mention you’d rather see legislative commitment to greening our transportation system! If you’re furious about ODOT’s abdicated responsibility on the orphan highways, demand that they push for the slush fund money to go towards fixing up 82nd Avenue, TV Highway, Barbur, and McLoughlin and other dangerous roads before we widen other streets. If you are a transportation geek and want to see more money for road maintenance, bike paths, better transit service, high speed rail, commuter rail – share your story! This is our chance to show Governor Brown that every day Oregonians are eager to see leadership on chipping away at the freeway industrial complex – the grey old deal – and investing in a more equitable, sustainable future.

    EXAMPLES
    • I am writing you to ask you to vote against HB 3055; climate leaders don’t widen freeways, and I’m concerned this bill gives ODOT a blank check to widen freeways in clackamas county when we instead need to be building a low-carbon transportation system running off of transit, biking and walking.
    • Please vote no on HB 3055 – there isn’t a single freeway expansion anywhere in North America that has ever solved traffic congestion, and ODOT’s proposals to spend hundreds of millions on the I-5 Boone Bridge and I-205 Oregon City project are robbing us of the opportunity to invest in better transportation systems that actually address congestion. We don’t know what commuting patterns we will have post-pandemic, and we certainly don’t need to throw away hundreds of millions of bucks on infrastructure that has never solved congestion.
    • I don’t believe ODOT should be trusted with the hundreds of millions of dollars in Bond funding that would be allowed until HB 3055. Why should current and future generations be on the hook to pay for these massive freeway expansions that don’t serve their needs and are actively frying the planet that they stand to inherit? Please direct ODOT to spend toll-revenue on fixing up orphan highways, which frequently maim and kill Oregonians biking, walking and driving on these dangerous arterials.
    • The state is literally on fire right now, we are recovering from a lethal climate disaster, and we’re prepared for a miserable summer of wildfires – we should probably stop giving ODOT blank checks to widen freeways when 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation. Please listen to Sunrise PDX and No More Freeways and vote no on HB 3055 until the ODOT freeway widening slush fund is removed from the omnibus bill.

4. If you don’t mind, feel free to send us a copy of the text you sent to the Governor – we love seeing all the wonderful testimony! (info at no more freeways pdx dot com)

5. If you really want to help us, post this link on whatever platform of social media you use to discuss your climate anxiety. Facebook, twitter, instagram, nextdoor, what have you – if you want to help us make sure the Governor understands the importance of vetoing this bill, we need as many voices as we can get reaching out to her office and pleading with her to show an iota of climate leadership during these unprecedented times.

ACTION ALERT ASAP: EMAIL YOUR LEGISLATORS TO STOP HB 3055, ODOT’S FREEWAY SLUSH FUND

FRIDAY JUNE 25 UPDATE: HB 3055B has passed the Oregon House, but it’s not too late to email your Senator. They are expected to vote on this bill in the next 48 hours – please drop your Senator a line!!!

HERE’s the official No More Freeways testimony about why HB 3055B is bad fiscal, climate, and transportation policy.

About a month ago, we put out a call-to-action to ask your help to write testimony for the Joint Committee on Transportation to oppose HB 3065, which included language for Speaker Tina Kotek’s ODOT freeway slush fund to write the agency a blank check to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on widening I-205 near Oregon City and I-5 near Wilsonville. Your response was overwhelming, with testimony coming in from all over the state to articulate why you think that the legislature should avoid continuing to feed the beast of the freeway industrial complex. Our efforts got written up in Oregon Public Broadcasting (with some great quotes from SunrisePDX’s Cassie Wilson; check out her new op-ed in BikePortland!)

While HB 3065 died in committee, all of the legislative language that would give ODOT the right to bond against projected future tolling revenue to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to widen I-205 and I-5 in Wilsonville has been snuck into HB 3055. This bill is ODOT’s omnibus legislation for the session, and includes a handful of positive elements like authority for urban counties to set lower speed limits and further policy language for figuring out congestion pricing and tolling.

Teenage climate justice advocates have been hosting biweekly strikes outside the ODOT downtown headquarters since April. Join them for Week 5 on this Wednesday, June 23 – 123 NW Flanders, 1-3pm. Follow YouthVsODOT on instagram for more information.

What’s bad about HB 3055: The bill increases ODOT’s short term borrowing limit from $100 million to $600 million, and allows ODOT to roll over any short term borrowing into long term bonds, and repay those bonds with any available money, including federal money. Combined with other language in the –15 amendment, the net result is that ODOT has been directed to borrow money to cover the unfunded freeway expansion mandates leftover from the 2017 legislative session, and is allowed to back up that borrowing with any money available, and to pledge any and all toll revenue that it might receive from tolling I-5 and I-205, essentially destroying any hope for variable tolls that would drop to zero off-peak, that might be imposed solely for managing traffic.

Meme courtesy Ben Fryback

Instead, any and all toll revenue will be poured into freeway expansion. While the state burns from unseasonably early wildfires, the state legislature could recognize that 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation and that the state simply must immediately invest in public transportation instead of further freeway expansions to hit our carbon emission reduction goals. The legislature could demand that ODOT to fix up deadly orphan highways, invest in frequent train service through the Willamette Valley, give TriMet funds to electrify buses, promote basic road maintenance or give local municipalities the revenue for Safe Routes to School. All of these investments would lower our carbon emissions, reduce air pollution, provide mobility options for the communities who need them the most, and make our streets safer. Instead, the legislature is once again giving ODOT a blank check, this time for two massively large freeway expansions in Clackamas County, as we await to see just how unfathomably terrible our wildfire season will be this summer.

It’s increasingly apparent to us at No More Freeways that a major reason that ODOT continues to aggressively pursue freeway expansions all over the Portland region is that the Oregon Legislature dictates that they do so. While there’s plenty of need for new leadership at the Oregon Transportation Commission, within ODOT’s upper-brass, and other regional and statewide transportation entities like TriMet, the state legislature is the body most responsible for allocating massive sums of money and setting the tone for our climate-arsonist practices of spending billions on freeways instead of directing revenue to transit service, fixing up ODOT’s orphan highways, basic road maintenance, and investing in commuter and high speed rail.

With the legislative session winding down, emailing your legislators about your concerns about the freeway slush fund included in HB 3055 is essentially your last chance to heckle your elected officials about the urgent need to stop widening freeways for almost the next eighteen months.

HB 3055 has been approved by the Oregon House, but still might fail in the Oregon Senate, which is why we need you to contact your Senators today.

If you want to tell your elected officials to turn off the spigot that funds the freeway industrial complex, we need your help.

TELL YOUR LEGISLATOR: OPPOSE HB 3055. NO MORE FREEWAY EXPANSIONS.

We need *you* to contact your State Senator and encourage them to vote NO on HB 3055 until the language for the freeway expansion slush funds are removed. Here’s how you can do that:

Which district are you in? Who’s your legislator? Look them up here:

Step 1: Look Up Your Senator

If you don’t know your State Senator, use the handy State Capitol website to look up who represents you in Salem. The bill has already passed the Oregon House (kudos to Speaker Tina Kotek, Rep Brad Witt and Rep Wlnsvey Campos for opposing the bill!) but we can still kill it in the Senate.

Step 2: Send them an email!

You don’t have to write an essay, unless you want to. But if you’ve never written your legislator about an important bill, here’s some tips:

  1. Who are ya? Include your full name, and make explicit that you live in their district and that you’re a constituent (if you feel comfortable, you can say which specific neighborhood you live in)
  2. Be specific with the bill number: Make sure you mention the bill number you’re opposed to (in this case, HB 3055) in the email header as well as the first 1-3 sentences of your letter.
  3. Personalize the letter! You don’t have to be a policy expert on the legislation to have an opinion; in fact, for the majority of the people writing in, personal stories and experiences are likely more important to share at this point. If you’re feeling climate anxiety as these wildfires pick up, be sure to mention you’d rather see legislative commitment to greening our transportation system! If you’re furious about ODOT’s abdicated responsibility on the orphan highways, demand that they push for the slush fund money to go towards fixing up 82nd Avenue, TV Highway, Barbur, and McLoughlin and other dangerous roads before we widen other streets. If you are a transportation geek and want to see more money for road maintenance, bike paths, better transit service, high speed rail, commuter rail – share your story! This is our chance to show legislators that every day Oregonians are eager to see leadership on chipping away at the freeway industrial complex – the grey old deal – and investing in a more equitable, sustainable future.

    EXAMPLES
    • I am writing you to ask you to vote against HB 3055; climate leaders don’t widen freeways, and I’m concerned this bill gives ODOT a blank check to widen freeways in clackamas county when we instead need to be building a low-carbon transportation system running off of transit, biking and walking.
    • Please vote no on HB 3055 – there isn’t a single freeway expansion anywhere in North America that has ever solved traffic congestion, and ODOT’s proposals to spend hundreds of millions on the I-5 Boone Bridge and I-205 Oregon City project are robbing us of the opportunity to invest in better transportation systems that actually address congestion. We don’t know what commuting patterns we will have post-pandemic, and we certainly don’t need to throw away hundreds of millions of bucks on infrastructure that has never solved congestion.
    • I don’t believe ODOT should be trusted with the hundreds of millions of dollars in Bond funding that would be allowed until HB 3055. Why should current and future generations be on the hook to pay for these massive freeway expansions that don’t serve their needs and are actively frying the planet that they stand to inherit? Please direct ODOT to spend toll-revenue on fixing up orphan highways, which frequently maim and kill Oregonians biking, walking and driving on these dangerous arterials.
    • The state is literally on fire right now – we should probably stop giving ODOT blank checks to widen freeways. Please listen to Sunrise PDX and No More Freeways and vote no on HB 3055 until the ODOT freeway widening slush fund is removed from the omnibus bill.

4. If you don’t mind, feel free to BCC us – we love seeing the letters that you send in! (info at no more freeways pdx dot com)