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Comment of the Week: A powerful critique of the Portland Freight Committee

“Time [the Portland Freight Committee] was sent packing or at least reconfigured”
— Lenny Anderson

Lenny Anderson at opening of a bike parking shelter on Swan Island in 2013.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

My visit to the Portland Freight Committee (PFC) earlier this month led to an interesting revelation: Turns out, members of this influential committee think the use of large freight trucks on North Lombard should be prioritized above everything else. To say the committee is skeptical of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s plan to remove two driving lanes to make room for a bike lanes and other updates is an understatement.

Reader Lenny Anderson took notice.

Lenny knows a thing or three about how freight advocacy works in this town. Before retiring in 2013, he spent 13 years improving access to-and-from the industrial district on Swan Island (home to UPS, FedEx, and others). Known to many as “Mr. Swan Island,” one reason Lenny was so good at his job is that he understood the way to move more freight was to encourage bicycling and transit use and remove as many single-occupancy automobile users as possible. “Every two people that ride down here is a semi!” he once said.

Suffice it to say, when Lenny talks about freight, we should listen.

That’s why I think his stinging critique of the Portland Freight Committee is worth highlighting (edited slightly for readability):

“The Portland Freight Committee is a publicly funded and staffed advocacy group for more roadway capacity for motor vehicles. Make no mistake. Time it was sent packing or at least reconfigured. It has no members from affected communities like St Johns, Portsmouth or Linnton, and is dominated by corporate interests who can just call the Governor! There was a day when Portland’s economy was driven by wood chips, then micro chips (still is to some extent) but even that is not the driver it once was. (Check out economist Joe Cortright’s work on the topic.)

As for parcel delivery outfits like Fed Ex, UPS, and others who have sometimes been the most vocal on the PFC, they need to adjust their trucks to our streets, not the other way around. Go electric, buy Sprinters, use bikes with trailers to deliver your packages. And if you can’t make it work here without endangering your customers, leave the Portland market; someone more willing to adapt to the 21st century will take your place.”

Well said Lenny. Hopefully someone at PBOT Commissioner Eudaly’s office takes note.

And thanks for continuing to stay engaged with these issues. Hope you’re enjoying your retirement!

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