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Press release: Coalition prepares to testify against freeway expansion at City Council

Posted by on September 7th, 2017 at 9:40 am

Here’s the latest on the rally and walk to City Hall by the No More Freeway Expansions coalition today (9/7):

Media Contact: Aaron Brown
nomorefreewayspdx@gmail.com

Coalition Prepares to Testify Against Freeway Expansion at City Council, citing Induced Demand, Climate Disruption, Traffic Safety

September 7, 2017 – A coalition of public health experts, small business owners, transportation advocates and environmentalists plan to deliver testimony in opposition to the proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion on Thursday. 26 organizations and 375 Portlanders have signed on to a letter originally delivered to Portland’s City Council last Wednesday, August 31st in advance of the September 7th City Council hearing to discuss the Central City Plan.

“No More Freeway Expansions” is asking the City of Portland to remove widening of the Rose Quarter Freeway from the Transportation System Plan update included in the Central City Plan due to the project’s ineffectiveness at solving traffic congestion, the impacts to local air quality of additional freeway lanes near a middle school and an elementary school, the project’s expected increased carbon emissions, and the necessity to address traffic safety by investing in dangerous arterials out in East Portland. The coalition encourages the city to study congestion pricing to address the gridlock motorists face on Interstate 5 and to work with the region and state to channel this funding towards desperately needed investments in transit, biking and walking.

“The opportunity cost is simply too high for us to invest nearly half a billion dollars in outdated infrastructure that doesn’t solve Portland’s ongoing congestion woes,” said Aaron Brown, an organizer with No More Freeway Expansions. “Portland has a laudable history of investments in sustainability and building our city for people; this is an expensive, outdated proposal we can’t afford if we’re serious about acting on climate, air quality, traffic safety and getting Portlanders out of gridlock. We’re asking City Council to show leadership and avoid spending half a billion dollars on a boondoggle that will only lead to Portlanders spending more time stuck behind the wheel and less time with their families.”

The letter cites the significant body of academic research suggesting that expanding freeway capacity has never solved traffic congestion in cities across America, including Los Angeles, Denver, Boston and Houston. This research speaks to a concept that urban planning scholars and economists call “induced demand,” which suggests expansion of freeways encourage more people to choose to drive automobiles, leading ultimately to more congestion. A 2016 expansion of I-405 in Los Angeles, for example, cost taxpayers $1.4 billion and ultimately led to longer commuting times through the corridor post-completion.

The coalition issued a statement this morning expressing gratitude for the willingness of Commissioner Dan Saltzman and the staff of Mayor Wheeler to meet with advocates and discuss their concerns about this costly, ineffectual proposal. “We wish to thank Commissioner Saltzman, in particular, for his comments given to BikePortland.org last Friday, in which his office shared that they intend to issue a statement prioritizing ‘congestion/value pricing along the I-5 corridor before the project breaks ground.’ We welcome this acknowledgement that congestion pricing is a cost-effective, proven and (if done appropriately) equitable approach to solving the traffic congestion that Portlanders currently face; however, we continue to encourage Commissioner Saltzman and the rest of the City Council to evaluate whether this $450 million freeway expansion is appropriate for inclusion in the Transportation System Plan update, in the name of honoring our city’s commitments to action on climate, traffic safety and equity.”

Organizations including The Audubon Society of Portland, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, NAACP Portland Branch, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Eliot Neighborhood Association and Neighbors for Clean Air have signed the letter. Oregon Walks, the state’s pedestrian advocacy organization, submitted testimony to the City stating that the proposed freeway expansion “does not align with the stated goals of [the City’s 2016 Vision Zero Action Plan and the 2015 Climate Action Plan], nor do they benefit the safety, health, or livability of Portland residents.”

Community members will be meeting at 1:00 at the Salmon Street Springs fountain on the Tom McCall Waterfront Park to speak about Portland’s history of stopping needless and costly freeway expansion, and walking to City Hall to testify at the 2:00 hearing.

To read the letter and learn more about the coalition, please visit our website at www.nomorefreewayspdx.com.

MEDIA ADVISORY:

No More Freeway Expansions will be holding a community walk starting at the Salmon Street Springs (1000 SW Naito Parkway) around 1:00pm on Thursday, September 7th. We’ll have a short program with talks from Ron Buel, a citizen activist who helped stop the Mt. Hood Freeway through southeast Portland in the 1970s, and Aaron Brown, who is also working on with the No More Freeways Expansion coalition to challenge the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion. Our presentation will begin roughly around 1:15 and citizens with signs and buttons will walk to City Hall (1221 SW 4th Avenue) in advance of the 2:00 Council Hearing. The walk is one of dozens hosted by “Steptember,” a series of free walks hosted by and for the community organized by Oregon Walks.

For any questions, please contact Aaron Brown at nomorefreewayspdx@gmail.com or 503 830 8577.

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