This post comes from BikePortland subscriber and contributor Kiel Johnson. He previously wrote about his grassroots effort to garner neighborhood support for the Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway project.
In the latest Oregon Governor’s race poll Kate Brown is ahead by 4% with a margin of error of 5%. There have been alarms going off that Governor Brown is in trouble and many commentators are pointing to a lack of a compelling vision. Last year she helped push through HB 2017, one of the largest transportation budgets in Oregon’s history. Yet this additional money is not doing her many favors for saving her job. She has hardly mentioned her victory on the campaign trail. As people who spend time reading about the importance of transportation, it is crucial for us to figure out why transportation is not a topic of interest in this race.
I encourage you to leave your ideas in the comments below. Here are a few of my thoughts:
To get such a large transportation budget passed the Governor had to rely on her helmsmen at the Oregon Department of Transportation who do not have a relevant vision for transportation. One of the biggest parts of the plan is the Rose Quarter I-5 expansion that no one really seems to want and has raised significant pollution concerns for the urban voters she needs. And I-5 at the Rose Quarter is one of several major freeway widening projects funded by the bill. ODOT is moving full steam ahead with a plan to add lanes to I-205 and Highway 217.
The ODOT managers Governor Brown oversees have yet to realize it is not 1950 and wider freeways will not solve our transportation issues.
This bill focused too much on automobile infrastructure and not enough on the cheaper and more useful solutions that people in urban areas know work. If she had used a large portion of the money and rebuilt all the ODOT orphan highways to be thriving, human-scaled corridors Portlander’s would be lining up for their “Kate Brown for Govenor” signs. She would also have a compelling success story. Instead she relied on the out-of-touch leadership at ODOT to help her pass a bill with too much freeway spending that does not get at the heart of our transportation problem: There are too many cars in our cities.
Her bill also largely left out the cheapest and best way to get people around, bicycles. Instead, it taxed them. London spends $22 per person per year on cycling infrastructure as they race to catch up to the rest of Europe. What does Portland spend? The replacement value of Portland’s bicycling infrastructure was $60 million in 2008 when we plateaued our 7% bicycle mode share. With Brown’s transportation bill we could have replicated Portland’s bike infrastructure 88 times.
Kate Brown has let the same 1950s leadership that failed on the Columbia River Crossing continue to dominate her transportation department. The current leaders of ODOT apparently only know how to pour cement for automobiles. She could have had a compelling transportation story to tell on the fence urban voters who will decide whether she gets to keep the job. Instead one of her greatest achievements has not helped her. Whichever candidate wins in November if they want to make transportation a winning story they will need to clean house at ODOT first.
— Kiel Johnson, @go_by_bike on Twitter
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