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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)

🚨 ACTION ALERT: STOP HB 3065, SPEAKER KOTEK’S HUGE FREEWAY EXPANSION SLUSH FUND

We had over 200 attendees to our #TubmanRally in April – sure seems like nobody likes the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion! Why is Speaker Kotek proposing giving ODOT an even bigger slush fund as they figure out their cost overruns?

Click here to submit testimony!

House Bill 3065 is a bad bill that would dramatically hurt our ability to solve traffic congestion, reduce carbon emissions, and rob us of money we need for other urgent transportation priorities across the state of Oregon. The crappy legislation, pushed by Speaker Tina Kotek, received a chilly reception in March (OPB has a great run-down of the previous meeting), and this weekend we learned that the bill has new amendments that will be getting a hearing in front of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation this Tuesday morning at 8am. We need your help pushing back against letting Speaker Kotek give ODOT a mammoth, unaccountable freeway expansion slush fund we’ll pay for for decades.

About the bill:

ODOT’s plans to add new lanes of freeway along I-205. This is climate arson, and the billions spent to convenience wealthy white suburban commuters is the money we could be using to fix TV Highway, McLoughlin, or 82nd Avenue, or investing in commuter rail, more frequent bus service, bus electrification, sidewalks, crosswalks….

The -8 Amendments of House Bill 3065 aims to institute a large tolling program that ODOT would spend the next couple decades bonding against to build billions of dollars of freeway expansions at the Rose Quarter, the Abernethy Freeway Expansion in Oregon City, and the Boone Bridge Freeway Expansion near Wilsonville. Future generations will be paying off the debts of these massive expansions for decades, as well as paying for the project with worse air pollution and higher carbon emissions, all for a couple of additional lanes of freeway that won’t fix congestion. While there are a few technical improvements on the -8 Amendment language that wasn’t present in the -5 Amendemtn introduced two months ago, the fundamental crux of the bill remains abysmal – ODOT is broke, and instead of raising revenue to build infrastructure to prepare for climate change, to manage traffic congestion, to reduce air pollution or address the dozens of yearly traffic fatalities on ODOT’s roads – ODOT just wants billions for more freeways that solve none of these problems and actively make them worse.

Click here to submit testimony!

Why we’re opposed to HB 3065:

While there are a few minor improvements in policy language in this -8 Amendment over the -5 Amendments introduced in March, we categorically reject that there is any sane or rational reason to move forward with spending billions of dollars on freeway expansions in the region in 2021, and any legislator supporting this bill needs to reckon with the legacy of a warmer planet, unsafe streets, air pollution, and lack of accessible public transportation they are leaving for future generations by supporting this bill.

We need faster commutes, not freeway congestion – There isn’t a single freeway expansion anywhere in North America that has solved traffic congestion by adding additional lanes. Thanks to the well-understood concept of induced demand, we now know that all three of these freeway widening projects will not get trucks or commuters out of a traffic jam – it’ll merely make them miserable during years of road construction only to have the roads fill up with traffic the day that new lanes are opened. No More Freeways has also repeatedly caught ODOT blatantly lying about the traffic projections included in the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion – hell, they lied so bad in the traffic projections that we sued them over it. No one voting for this bill should be under the impression this will provide any long term solution to traffic congestion. The only way to reduce traffic congestion is to implement congestion pricing; unfortunately, ODOT is not pursuing congestion pricing (which works to minimize traffic jams) and instead pursuing tolling (which works to maximize revenue raised, a mechanism they need to raise the money for these massively oversized expansion projects).

Click here to submit testimony!

Members of the Teen Caucuse of Sunrise PDX are hosting a bi-weekly sit-in outside of the downtown ODOT headquarters to protest their continued pursuit of fossil-fuel infrastructure.

It’s a blank check for fossil fuel infrastructure – 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation. Even under the rosiest of predictions for vehicle electrification, Oregonians simply must reduce the number of miles they drive as the state grows if we want to have a shot of hitting our emission reduction targets. We need to use the roads we already have better, not add more – and we instead need to be investing in public transportation, walkable communities, high speed rail, intercity buses, and maintaining existing roads.

Click here to submit testimony!

Have you been paying attention to ODOT lately? It’s been a rough month for the Oregon Department of Transportation. Between the outcry on the traffic fatalities on 82nd Avenue, the horrific images of clearcutting wildfire lands in the Cascades, and their continued tomfoolery with the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion (more on that below) – why do a bunch of legislators trust this agency with billions of dollars of freeway projects that aren’t anywhere close to shovel-ready? There’s undeniably massive cost overruns, slights-of-hands, overpromising and under-delivering ahead for ODOT on these mega projects. The agency is fundamentally incapable of transparency, accountability, or pushing policy that meets any conservation, equity, or mobility goals other than handing out massive construction contracts to asphalt, automobile, oil, and freight lobbyists. ODOT has so many other priorities in need of desperate funding – why should we give them a slush fund for more freeways?

Click here to submit testimony!

Rose Quarter project is imperiled – why is Speaker Kotek dumping more money into it? Anyone who has followed No More Freeways in the past couple years knows about the utter shitshow this proposed expansion has been (you can read our March 2021 letter to legislators about the Rose Quarter). The continued cost escalations, the public records showing ODOT was lying about the width of the freeway, the hidden plans to move the freeway even closer to Harriet Tubman Middle School, the community leaders who walked away from the project in protest of ODOT’s abysmal community outreach last summer… it goes on and on. The Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion is an absolute disaster currently facing two lawsuits and continued skepticism from a litany of youth climate activists, transportation and racial justice advocates, and public health leaders pushing for a full Environmental Impact Statement. Given the headlines over the past couple years, why on earth would any legislator want to write ODOT a blank check to continue squandering money on this project?

Click here to submit testimony!

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN SUBMIT TESTIMONY:

Screenshot of Paxton Rothwell, Sunrise PDX transportation organizer, providing testimony in March 2021 opposing HB 3065

House Bill 3065 and the -8 Amendment are getting a hearing in front of the Joint Committee on Transportation on Tuesday, May 10 at 8am. You can write to the Joint Committee on Transportation in opposition to the bill – feel free to use any of our talking points above, or share why you want to see the Oregon Legislature fund sidewalks, crosswalks, high speed rail, bike lanes, frequent bus service, electrified buses, charging stations for automobiles, intercity bus service, or basic road maintenance ahead of committing future generations to paying for these ghastly freeway expansions that are nothing short of climate arson. Share your personal story – are you worried about climate change? Angry that ODOT doesn’t have any money to fix 82nd Avenue or TV Highway because they dump it all on freeways? Concerned about air pollution near Harriet Tubman Middle School? Share your story, and make sure the elected officials hear from you on why it’s their duty and responsibility to push back on ODOT and the freeway industrial complex.

HERE’S THE LINK TO SUBMIT TESTIMONY ON HB 3065

This is a screenshot of the Oregon Legislature’s Testimony Submission Form. To submit testimony on HB 3065, choose the 5/11 meeting date, click HB 3065, and then click *oppose.*

You’re welcome to join No More Freeways, Sunrise PDX, and a handful of other transportation justice advocate in providing oral testimony on Tuesday morning as well. Information on how to do so is here.

You can also watch the live stream of the Tuesday morning testimony here.

Written testimony due to the Oregon Legislature by 8am on Wednesday, May 12. We encourage you to also email your testimony to your legislator as well.

Click here to submit testimony!

New lawsuit just dropped.

We’re staying busy over here at No More Freeways. Just a few weeks after our first lawsuit with Neighbors for Clean Air and the Eliot Neighborhood Association, No More Freeways filed our second lawsuit challenging ODOT’s $800 million freeway expansion in the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School. You can read the full complaint here.

That’s two lawsuits filed in one month for our scrappy, all-volunteer, grassroots campaign.

#TubmanRally a big success

Thanks to all who came out to our #TubmanRally this month! We had roughly 200 people at the event, and some absolutely fantastic speakers. We wrote over 350 postcards to Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Governor Kate Brown, Speaker Tina Kotek, and Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty asking them to keep fighting ODOT and holding the agency accountable for the air pollution, carbon emissions and traffic congestion that this project would mean to our community, the Tubman campus, and the planet as a whole.

Check out BikePortland’s coverage of our rally.

Teenage Climate Justice Leaders launch biweekly ODOT strikE

The teen caucus of Sunrise PDX held their first sit-in outside ODOT’s headquarters this last week. They’ll be revisiting ODOT’s headquarters every other week protesting the agency’s inaction on transportation and climate justice. Go follow the Youth vs ODOT instagram account to see more photos from their event, to read their four demands of ODOT (including the appointment of a Youth Climate Justice representative on the OTC) and to learn more about their next event.

Join us outside of ODOT’s downtown headquarters on Wednesday, May 12.

OPB story on freeway in Tubman’s backyard25454259-3123-4290-8f63-a2456c390b1b

For years, community members and staff with Portland Public Schools have been demanding more information about the impacts of the proposed freeway expansion on the Harriet Tubman Middle School campus. ODOT has been reluctant to share any information with any of us; fortunately, through a series of public records requests, we got copies of documents ODOT produced as early as 2018 showing exactly how much land in the backyard of Tubman Middle School they intend to take for this freeway.

OPB did a story highlighting these findings, and getting quotes from PPS Board Members and us about the importance of these maps. After years of stalling to share any information with the public, these maps getting into the hands of journalists must have started ODOT, because suddenly the agency announced this last week willing to explore expanding the freeway to the west, farther away from the school. Even if ODOT dramatically changes their plans, any widening will still increase air pollution in the backyard of Tubman Middle School, which already has some of the worst air pollution in the state.

This information only came to light because of our public records requests. This is just one month after we caught ODOT lying about the width of the proposed freeway. How many other dirty secrets about this project is this agency continuing to hide from the public?

Pedestrian Safety Rally on 82nd Avenue on Friday

Why does ODOT have billions for freeway expansions but can’t find the money to make basic safety investments for their orphan highways? (The agency cries poverty when challenged on this.)

This month, two people were hit by cars and killed while attempting to cross 82nd Avenue near NE Alberta. Meanwhile, there hasn’t been a single traffic fatality on the Rose Quarter freeway expansion in over a decade.

Community leaders including Rep Khanh Pham, Scott Kocher, Oregon Walks, and others are hosting a rally on 82nd Avenue this Friday, May 7th at 4pm to demand ODOT be held accountable to prioritizing safety investments here and across the region.

NMF to present on panel with national leaders May 18

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No More Freeways was recently flattered to receive an invitation to speak on a panel hosted by Move Minneapolis discussing the future of the urban interstate. Check out this lineup!

Keith Baker, Managing Director, Reconnect Rondo
Oni Blair, Executive Director, LINK Houston
Dr Karilynn Crockett, Author, Professor MIT
Dr Ben Crowther, Program Manager, Congress for New Urbanism
Ian Lockwood, PE, Toole Design
Beth Osborne, Director, Transportation for America
Dr Regan Patterson, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
Aaron Brown, No More Freeways

You can register for Move Minneapolis’ 2021 Transportation Summit here.

Final note from Aaron – donate to keep us going!

200215_020-1Two lawsuits, two rallies (and a third we’re joining this week), breaking news about ODOT’s lack of transparency – as you can see, it’s been an awfully busy month. And honestly, this lengthy e-blast still doesn’t include numerous other things we’ve done over the last month to heckle ODOT, including testifying to multiple committees about the Columbia River Crossing 2.0, call out ODOT for hiding public comments concerned about air pollution outside Tubman Middle School, or other shenanigans involving pushing back on the legislature’s ongoing thirst for more freeways.

We’re so grateful for your continued support. While ODOT continues to churn forward with this project, our movement to challenge the freeway industrial complex has perhaps never been larger. Whether critiquing the agency on their abysmal climate outcomes, their unwillingness to prioritize funding basic traffic safety investments, or their deception about the air pollution they intend to pump into the lungs of current and future residents of the Albina neighborhood, we are spearheading an increasingly broad and diverse coalition of everyday Portlanders who are beginning to take their pitchforks to ODOT and demand accountability and transparency.

We’re all volunteers over here at NMF. This grassroots campaign is funded by a couple big donations and an awful lot of small donations. Whether you’ve got $5000, $500, $50, or $15 to chip in for a healthier, greener future, we’re eager to mail you a button and/or sticker and help us build our warchest for a busy summer of continuing to dismantle the freeway industrial complex.

Hey ODOT! We’ll see you in court.

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

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

Our full NEPA complaint can be accessed here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full complaint can be accessed here

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 9, 5-7pm

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

Learn more on our rally website.

#StopTheFONSI

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

Graphic says "ODONT" and features NMF logo

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

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

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

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

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

TUBMAN RALLY APRIL 9th

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

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

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

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

WINTER

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

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

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

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

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

We ❤ Rose Lanes, too.

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

SPRING

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

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

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

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

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

The kids are alright!

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

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

SUMMER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sixplexes for all!

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

FALL

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

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

Probably time for ODOT to stop spending billions widening freeways! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in store for 2021?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours,
Aaron

800 MILLION FRICKIN’ DOLLARS!

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

Governor Brown asks for delay on OTC vote on RQ

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still time to demand ODOT conduct an EIS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate leaders don’t widen freeways.

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

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

Text of our response is below.

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

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

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

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

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

Our future depends on it.

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

Climate leaders

don’t widen freeways

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

Singin’ in the rain for climate justice

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


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

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

Solidarity with the #UpWithRiders campaign

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Leaders Don’t Widen Freeways.