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Students at Tubman Middle School wore masks to protest toxic air from I-5 drivers

Posted by on April 23rd, 2019 at 11:22 am

Students from Harriet Tubman Middle School on the N Flint Ave bridge yesterday. Their classrooms are just 50 feet from freeway lanes.
(Photos: Aaron Brown/No More Freeways PDX)

The kids know.

On Earth Day yesterday, Portland-based nonprofit Neighbors for Clean Air organized a protest on the Flint Avenue Bridge. Dozens of students from nearby Harriet Tubman Middle School joined them. They wore masks, donned “No Dirty Diesel” t-shirts, and chanted, “Diesel is dirty! Diesel is dumb!”.


From their perch on the bridge, the students could see thousands of people driving fossil fuel-burning cars and trucks below. They could also see their classrooms. Tubman is just 50 feet away from I-5 and has a well-known history of bad air quality because of it.

The kids were there to support House Bill 2007, a proposal that would create stronger regulations for diesel emissions. But they were also a visible symbol of what’s at stake with the I-5 Rose Quarter freeway project.

The Oregon Department of Transportation and the City of Portland want to to expand the freeway so it — and the toxic driving it encourages — will be even closer to the lungs of these students. Despite their claims to the contrary, ODOT’s freeway expansion will lead to more drivers, more exhaust, and dirtier air. The plan is so harmful that the Portland Public School Board is vehemently opposed to it.

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“The potential impacts of the proposed project to Harriet Tubman Middle School are particularly troubling,” the School Board wrote in a letter outlining their demands for a more thorough environmental analysis.

The widening of the freeway would also require that ODOT demolish and remove the bridge the students stood on — a move even the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s own Bicycle Advisory Committee said is a bad idea. “The removal of the Flint Ave crossing… would have a negative impact on bicycle travel that cannot be replaced by any of the facilities proposed in the Build alternative,” the BAC wrote in their letter opposing the project. Currently about 3,000 people ride bicycles over the Flint Ave Bridge every day.

These Tubman students deserve better. We’re grateful for their courage in speaking out and we hope our local elected leaders take heed.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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ItgoesbothwaysMark smith9wattsDoug HeckerHello, Kitty Recent comment authors
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Caesar
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Caesar

These students will soon learn that youthful exuberance and optimism are no match for the U.S. petrochemical-automotive-transportation industry juggernaut. Sad.

bikeninja
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bikeninja

A good historical measure of the health of a civilization is weather that civilization is willing to make sacrifices for the future of its children or weather it is willing to sacrifice its children for the comfort and convenience of those who hold power at present. Those that practice the later are on the way to the dustbin of history.

Andrew Kreps
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Andrew Kreps

So the public comment period is over- has it had any effect on project plans? I get the feeling ODOT is going to go quiet for a few months and then just build whatever they want.

Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

Who puts a school next to a highway?

9watts
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Middle of the Road Guy
Who puts a school next to a highway?Recommended 2

Kind of a funny question that diverts attention.
The problem is not the school, or its place, but the ubiquitous auto which, along with the infrastructure and concentration of power that accompany and perpetuate it, ruins everything within reach.

Dave
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Dave

I wish people would stop playing games with this school. Freeway widening or not, this is a terrible location for a school. It’s unhealthy. Freeway expansion isn’t going to make it better. The project merits, or lack of, shouldn’t be based on a school that should not be in that location regardless.

todd boulanger
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The Scanner reported (26 July 2018):
And the past has not always been kind to Harriet Tubman Middle School. Its opening in 1982 represented a monumental win against institutional racism within the school system.

At that time, African American students were being bused from their North and Northeast neighborhoods to attend some 32 predominantly White schools around the metropolitan area, as part of PPS’s integration practice implemented during the 1960s.

“Student outdoor activities be limited at Harriet Tubman Middle School, especially during high traffic periods,” states the first of a five Key Recommendations in the report.

“It will be interesting to see if there will be any final decisions to do monitoring at other schools,” John Burnham, interim senior director of environmental health and safety at PPS, told The Skanner. “But that hasn’t been pursued, except simply talked about. There’s no plans right now.”

Burnham added that there are thousands of schools across the country that are in similar situations, but he’s hoping PSU’s report will ignite discussions within other districts about testing their own air quality.

Where Tubman is concerned, PPS is spending $12.5 million to outfit the middle school against the air quality, which includes an HVAC system with multiple layers of filtration to cut down on pollutants.

“I can almost guarantee you that there is no other school in the country that has a system like this,” said Steve Simonson, senior project manager at PPS. “It’s probably going to be some of the cleanest air in the city of Portland.”

https://www.theskanner.com/news/northwest/27213-overcoming-hurdles-tubman-middle-school-reopens-aug-27

Mark smith
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Mark smith

The state doesn’t even attempt pay a pittance to minorities anymore. Now they just blatently take their space and their clean air.

Itgoesbothways
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Itgoesbothways

So… cars idling is better for the environment? Wasn’t this school closed from 2012 to 2018? And what about the lead found in the water at Portland schools. Did we forget about that? If you care so much about the environment, then why do you have 3 kids?