This article was originally submitted by Metro as a subscriber post.
Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak praised and provoked Portland-area leaders at a forum last Friday, challenging them to work together to address growing transportation dilemmas facing Portland and metropolitan regions around the country.
Rybak, a three-term mayor from 2002 to 2014, spoke with humor, humility and bluntness at a regional leadership forum at the Oregon Convention Center, kicking off Metro’s 2018 update of its regional transportation plan.
Attendees included state legislators, local elected officials who sit on the Metro Policy Advisory Committee and Joint Policy Advisory Commmittee on Transportation, public agency staff, transportation advocates, community members and business leaders from throughout the Portland region.
Rybak’s tenure in Minneapolis was a time of great change in the city, which has 400,000 residents and co-anchors the Twin Cities metropolitan region, with a population of around 3 million.
His administration launched a comprehensive 10-year transportation plan called Access Minneapolis, identifying and completing new investments in transit, sidewalks, bikeways and updating transportation design guidelines. Rybak also played a key role in advancing several major bus and light rail projects in Minneapolis and its region. And, he slyly noted, Minneapolis briefly overtook Portland as the best bicycling city in the country according to Bicycling magazine.
But Rybak is intimately familiar with a hard truth about the country’s transportation system: It’s falling apart, and the consequences are real. His mayoral tenure included one of the country’s most terrible transportation tragedies. The collapse of the Interstate 35W Mississippi River bridge during an evening rush hour in 2007 killed 13 people and injured 145.
Reflecting on the lessons he’d learned, Rybak had a clear warning for local leaders: Despite the Portland region’s celebrated accomplishments, emerging trends and festering challenges both require rethinking how we approach transportation planning.
“All of us in the country and literally in the world count on Portland to lead,” Rybak said. “And it is time, I think, for you to challenge some basic assumptions.”
See highlights and watch a video of Rybak’s address at OregonMetro.gov.
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