Left to their own devices, the Oregon Department of Transportation would already be deep into the design and pre-construction phase of their I-5 Rose Quarter project right now. But because of their own hubris and blind ambition to “deliver” freeway expansion mega-projects at any cost and consequence, ODOT’s boss has forced them to delay.
On January 24th, the Oregon Transportation Commission published a memo (PDF) with 11 actions ODOT must take, “to more fully involve the community in decisions around the project and better evaluate alternatives to help reconnect the Albina community.” One of those actions is to create a community advisory committee. ODOT opened the application period for that committee on Wednesday.
The 20-member committee will be led by a neutral facilitator and is expected to meet up to nine times per year at meetings that will be up to three hours long. ODOT says it wants the committee to “help shape the project design and recommend avenues for equitable engagement with the community.”
It remains to be seen how ODOT will utilize this committee or what (if any) impact it has. As we’ve heard from the group No More Freeways, 90% of the 2,000 comments ODOT received on their federally-required Environmental Assessment opposed the project, yet ODOT still assumes they have a mandate to proceed and the agency wants to avoid doing a more thorough analysis of the project known as an Environmental Impact Statement (a decision on that issue will be made by March 20th). Will ODOT demonstrate an open-mind and willingness to challenge their assumptions and existing proposals based on insights or concerns raised by this committee?
While it’s nice to have another lever of possible influence on this project, I’ll remain skeptical about ODOT’s willingness to take it seriously until I see otherwise. ODOT megaproject committees like this often have the opposite impact of what well-intentioned advocates expect. That is, ODOT ends up using the time and ideas of committee members while using their involvement to move the project along, check a box for the OTC, and create a narrative that everyone involved has locked arms in support of the project.
That’s what they did to push their controversial Columbia River Crossing project. In 2009, a Bicycle Transportation Alliance (now The Street Trust) staffer was a member of a CRC advisory committee. When a key decision was on the table, a disgusted BTA rep had seen enough. “The BTA is done with this public involvement theater,” said Michelle Poyourow, before leaving the committee. “We’re not going to play this game any more.”
Perhaps this time will be different.
Here’s what ODOT says about the committee:
The project team has heard from the community about the importance of continued public engagement. The CAC is one example of how the project will intentionally seek community input, further extend opportunities for the public to engage, and bring community interests and values into the decision-making process. As the project moves forward, ODOT will demonstrate and communicate how the CAC’s input meaningfully informs project decisions.
I hope some of you apply. Learn more about the committee here and find the application here. You can apply through February 18th and the first meeting will be held March 18th.
(ODOT has also been asked by the OTC to consider forming an “Executive Advisory Committee” that would be chaired by OTC Vice Chair Alando Simpson. They have to decide on that by February 15th.)
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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Alando already has an executive platform to have his voice heard, he’s the Vice Chair of the OTC. Why would we want another committee coming to different recommendations? Sounds like another train wreck. The revolution will be televised!
It will NOT be different this time.
ODOT is using the same strategy of “public involvement theatre” for the purpose of manufacturing consent to what it wants, which is to expand the freeway for motor vehicles in the name of economic growth.
The only thing that COULD be different this time is whether the community falls for it.
It seems like a cake committee position. I imagine the first meeting will go something like this
ODOT: What can we do to make you happy?
Stakeholders: Not build it.
ODOT: We’re going to build it. The freight industry already paid the governor, so its going to happen as soon as the public heat dies down.
ODOT: Woops! We said the quiet part out loud
Stakeholders: What’s the point of a committee if you are already set on doing the project?
ODOT: We learned from the last attempt that apparently people who live in the area of a major freeway expansion want to be “engaged” so we are holding these meetings so we can make you feel engaged. I honestly have no idea, we all live in West Salem and really just think of this area as a pit with nobodies living in it.
Stakeholders: But you don’t care what we think, so you aren’t engaging us….
ODOT: Welp, we tried to engage! I guess that means we can go ahead!
ODOT and PBOT seem to have plenty in common as they both do the same kind of shamming.
Gil Scott-Herron lives!
Get on the committee to tell ODOT that the cats out of the bag. The wider/faster highway they built (surprise!) is the real crash hotspot. The 205 is the accident hotspot. Maybe it’s time to traffic calm the glen jackson?
How about we stop all urban renewal projects then? Stop the SW Light Rail? Stop anymore streetcar? Stop the CEID redevelopment. Let’s be fair about this. Never mind that this is addressing a far greater factor in the economy than the above mentioned things. If this was strictly a highway project the costs wouldn’t even be half of what it is estimated at. No this is an urban renewal project designed to enrich the coffers at City Hall.
It could also be… “You Can Tell ODOT Where to Stick Their Rose Quarter Highway Expansion.”
For people who object to this please don’t vote for politicians who want Portland to be another big city. Why do you think they are rezoning everywhere for more density? And you think that in 2040 50-something millenials are still going to be biking around all winter in the rain? Hahahahaha!!
No, when I’m 50 I’ll be taking the bus in my very dense, pedestrian-friendly, infrastructure-rich neighborhood. That’s what my boomer parents already do.
Well it certainly ain’t gonna be boomers. because they will be dead.
Next time I testify to OTC (which will be soon) I will cite your comment.