EA PUBLIC COMMENT

It all comes down to this.

We launched this website and our campaign to stop the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion back in September 2017. We’ve organized thousands of comments from community members across the Portland Metro Area concerned about the traffic congestion, air pollution, and carbon emissions associated with this proposed $500 million freeway expansion in the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School.

Our grassroots campaign has until 5:00pm, April 1st to submit our testimony expressing opposition to this gargantuan investment in fossil-fuel infrastructure when we have eleven years to tackle climate change. This public comment period represents our best opportunity for community groups to speak out against this costly boondoggle.

WHAT TO WRITE:

Speak from the heart. You’re welcome and heartily encouraged to use our talking points (see below), but more than anything else, a sincere, heartfelt explanation of why you oppose this megaproject is the best contribution to our campaign we can ask you for. If you’re a parent of a student at Harriet Tubman Middle School, if you’re a small business owner in the area, if you’re deeply terrified about climate change, if you’re a transit enthusiast concerned about the induced demand of more driving, if you bike through the neighborhood and don’t like the removal of the Flint Avenue Bridge, if you’re some combination of the above/none of the above: write your story. We’ll be submitting our legal inquiries and academic literature explaining why this project is misguided, but we need your help sharing your own story as to how this project will affect everyday Oregonians.

Talking points:

  • Congestion won’t improve. Freeway expansion has never solved traffic congestion, in any North American city, anywhere. Ever! ODOT’s own hired consultants admit that this project won’t address recurring traffic congestion on this corridor. There are numerous examples of induced demand across the country, including most recently in Los Angeles, who spent $1.6 BILLION on a “freeway bottleneck” widening project only to find it made traffic *worse.*
  • Have you seen our video highlighting how ODOT’s proposed freeway widening would expand I-5 into the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School?

    Increase in air pollution. This project proposes to expand a freeway into the backyard of Harriet Tubman Middle School, where air pollution is already so bad that PSU’s researchers recommended that students forgo outdoor recess. This is an environmental justice issue – 40% of Tubman’s students are Black, and 73% are identified by PPS as vulnerable populations.

  • Freeway Expansion is Climate Denialism. 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation – as a recent Oregonian article pointed out, Oregon simply cannot decarbonize our transportation sector without driving a lot less. If we are going to spend $500,000,000 on a transportation project that addresses the urgent existential threat that climate change represents, this money should be spent on improving and prioritizing public transportation and building walkable communities.
  • ODOT is hiding the data. The entire traffic projection information on which ODOT’s claims about the purported benefits of this project are based have been made largely inaccessible to our community groups to independently verify. Our coalition has brought on traffic engineers to review the information that should have been available to the  ODOT still hasn’t released numerous data sets and appendices that would allow our community groups to independently verify ODOT’s assertions that this project would lower carbon emissions, improve air quality or lower traffic congestion. ODOT’s strategy is to tell the public “trust us, this is good for the community,” and isn’t providing any of the materials available for us to double-check their dubious claims. Our coalition wrote a letter on March 4th asking for this information and we still haven’t received it. How can ODOT claim to be providing meaningful public engagement with the project when they won’t even make the data available for the public to review?
  • Opportunity Costs: Even *if* ODOT can manage to keep this project under $500,000,000 (pretty unlikely, given the agency’s track record), it’s an enormously expensive undertaking whereas the revenues could be spent on a litany of other projects and needs across the region. $500 million could build a lot of sidewalks in East Portland, bus rapid transit lines across town, or be a solid down payment towards the proposed underground light rail tunnel. And unlike a freeway widening, all of those investments would be better for air quality, carbon emissions, public health, and congestion relief.
  • Widespread Community Opposition: Despite ODOT’s claims that this project “reconnects the community,” there are numerous concerns about the surface-level bicycle and pedestrian facilities currently proposed. ODOT intends to remove the Flint Avenue crossing (one of the city’s most popular bike commuting routes), the proposed “lids” over the freeway won’t be strong enough to support buildings like the Albina Vision is proposing, and is opposed by all major bike/ped groups and local neighborhood organizations (we wrote a letter to Portland City Hall last year articulating the ways the surface-level street changes are not an improvement to the community).
  • Decongestion Pricing should be implemented before expansion. Road pricing is the only policy actually proven to reduce traffic congestion; it’s also proven to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions as well. Why is ODOT moving forward with a $500 million boondoggle investment without first instituting congestion pricing to see if that mechanism wouldn’t solve the traffic problems on the corridor *without* sinking half a billion dollars into the expansion? ODOT’s studies of traffic patterns of the proposed freeway expansion *completely* ignore the reality that the state is mandated with moving forward with decongestion pricing, which will enormously impact how many people choose to drive on the corridor and greatly reduce congestion. (There are meaningful, valid concerns about how to implement decongestion pricing fairly – we’ve explored that in letters to the Oregon Transportation Committee last year)
  • Ask for a full Environmental Impact Statement. ODOT’s truncated Environmental Assessment document simply isn’t focused enough on the significant impacts to health and public safety this project represents. Asking ODOT to more fully study alternatives (including decongestion pricing!) to this expansion with a full Environmental Impact Statement is a very helpful ask for us.

EMAIL YOUR COMMENTS TO INFO@I5ROSEQUARTER.ORG
(or fill out the below comment card, and we’ll submit it for you)

Thanks for submitting your comment on the record! Here’s a few other ways you can help:

ASK YOUR FRIENDS TO JOIN IN

Can you post a link to our No More Freeways website on your facebook, twitter, instagram, Next Door, local message board or google group for your PTA/Neighborhood Association? This is a community-led effort, and our grassroots campaign to encourage the state of Oregon to reconsider this project requires a robust community turnout during this Environmental Assessment period. Reach out to our campaign if you’d like us to come present to your community group.

CHIP IN TO HELP US PROMOTE THE MESSAGE

We’ve raised over $14,000 over the course of eighteen months in our campaign to challenge this project. Donations to our campaign are tax-deductible, thanks to our fine fiscal sponsors over at Portland Transport. Consider throwing us a few bucks to help us cover our propaganda costs and legal fees. We’ll mail you some buttons and stickers