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ODOT plans to rebrand the I-5 Rose Quarter freeway project

Posted by on April 8th, 2021 at 4:20 pm

Models with t-shirts featuring ODOT’s proposed new “Bloom” logo.

“I think you should add some color to the whiteness that’s in it.”
— John Washington, Historic Albina Advisory Group member

The Oregon Department of Transportation has shifted the marketing of their controversial I-5 Rose Quarter project into high gear. At a project advisory board meeting Tuesday, a consultant released versions of new logos as part of a rebranding effort.

The meeting came just one day after a trio of environmental justice groups announced a lawsuit against the project, which seeks to widen I-5 through the same location where it decimated a well-established Black neighborhood in the 1960s. ODOT says they planned the rebrand before the lawsuit dropped, but the project faced rough seas long before that.

Tuesday’s meeting was for the Historic Albina Advisory Board, a group that set up after ODOT shut down its predecessor when members threatened to walk away because they said ODOT had failed to listen to their concerns.

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Asked to explain the reason for the rebranding effort when it was first made public in early February, an ODOT project staffer told us, “The rebranding is an effort to better understand how we are showing up in communities.”

Alando Simpson

Before discussion of the rebrand started, the project’s Executive Steering Committee Chair (and Vice-Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission) Alando Simpson addressed members in what appeared to be an attempt to help them understand the lawsuit.

Simpson didn’t mention the lawsuit by name but it was clearly on his mind. He urged members to be patient with ODOT and “trust the process.” “[ODOT] is a 5,000 person agency,” he said. “So as much as we want to change overnight, that’s not realistic and that’s not practical.”

Simpson, who owns Rose City Disposal and Recycling, made his opinion clear: Any delay of the freeway expansion project will hurt the economic and job-creation prospects of Black business owners.

“I don’t think it’s necessary that we try to delay the project to force it to go through another environmental, rigorous review when we have an opportunity right in front of us. There is an estimated $100 million that is going to go back into the hands of a black-owned construction firm. Period. It’s one of the largest, if not the largest contract ever issued to a black-owned civil engineering firm in our entire country. That is transformation… this is the bigger conversation we have to focus on… Delaying a process like this, with that kind of opportunity on the table… wouldn’t be the most logical thing for us to do, especially in a moment when everybody seems to believe Black Lives Matter.”

Old logo on top. Draft version of new logo on the bottom.

Simpson made his remarks at the outset of the meeting to try and steady the course and reassure advisory board members that the project is important and has forward momentum — despite the rising volume of its critics.

The rebranding effort is being made with similar intentions.

A consultant hired by ODOT to design and implement the new brand told committee members the current brand works fine for a transportation project, but it no longer fits, “After the shift of the project to restorative justice and equity for Black Portlanders.”

During one moment in her presentation, the consultant was interrupted by an unknown voice who didn’t realize they were unmuted (listen to it below).

“The purpose of the whole new brand is for the community and the Historic Albina Advisory Board members to be profiled…,” the consultant said.

“Profiled?! Holy shit!” interjected a man’s voice.

After a few seconds of silence, the consultant apologized and continued her presentation

The new logo that was preferred by committee members is called “Bloom”. It’s a rose with inset silhouettes of two faces. “The bloom of Albina symbolizes the blossoming of a revitalized Historic Albina to inspire community connectivity and outcomes with the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project.”

The bloom design was strongly supported by the committee, with just one quibble from Soul District Business Association rep John Washington. “I think you should add some color to the whiteness that’s in it. You might want to shade it or put some kind of color in there,” he suggested.

In related project news, there’s a big rally planned tomorrow at Harriet Tubman Middle School to raise support for the lawsuit. Get full details on the BP calendar.

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

“Profiled?! Holy shit!” interjected a man’s voice.

LOL. Man you have to sympathize just a little with ODOT. They truly have no clue.

No More Freeways
Guest
No More Freeways

Sure hope this “rebranding” toward “improvement” actually means some substantive improvement for the Rose Quarter beyond the lone ‘black-owned construction firm’ and not just a reason to throw some Black faces on a t-shirt so everyone knows ODOT isn’t racist. See y’all at the rally tomorrow?

Aaron Brown
Guest

hey, just a heads up – I don’t know who commented this but to my knowledge this wasn’t anyone officially with NMF…

Not "No More Freeways"
Guest
Not "No More Freeways"

Hey Aaron, ya – didn’t mean to confuse anyone. I’m just another concerned citizen who doesn’t want any more freeways.

James S
Guest
James S

“There is an estimated $100 million that is going to go back into the hands of a black-owned construction firm”

Doesnt the majority of that go to the materials, which ends up being asphalt (oil), concrete, and heavy machinery that runs on diesel?

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

I also can’t tell what the benefit here is. How many people own the construction firm? One? Two? How is spending $100 million with one Black owned construction firm supposed to benefit the at-large Black community in Portland?

I’m all for employing minority owned firms to do this type of work, but that should always be a bonus to otherwise good work, not an incentive to support a bad project.

squareman
Subscriber

Not only that, but I know multiple non-minority business owners that run everything about the business but use their intersectional minority spouses as a figurehead in the business to be be able to go after projects and contracts exactly in this manner. The owner goes to meetings, but if their spouse fits the diversity mold of the contract, they go to the meeting too and do all the talking as the “primary partner.” Not illegal but seems unethical AF.

Call me cynical, but based on ODOT’s deep history, and some of the evidence right here in this story, I don’t have any confidence that ODOT is going to seriously vet that the company truly is black-owned and run. Are they even going to bother checking on the diversity of the workers themselves? I doubt it.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

It’s absolutely insane that a transportation department feels the need to hire PR firm to rebrand a project because it’s faced so much opposition. Just give up already ODOT.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Wow, the tokenism… I also like how hiring a Black-owned construction firm is “transformational”. The message this sends is that it doesn’t matter what you build and it doesn’t matter whether Black residents in the city would actually benefit from it as long as the firm building it is Black-owned (which is not to say that we shouldn’t hire Black-owned firms; we absolutely should). Rebranding isn’t how you “better understand how [you] are showing up in communities.” Asking for community input and actually listening and acting accordingly is how you do that.

LK
Guest
LK

This is just shameless. You can’t make highway expansion equitable or restorative by putting a black person on a logo. This fake-woke pandering is insulting. The project is not about “restorative justice and equity for Black Portlanders,” it’s about doubling the width of the highway through downtown Portland.

Chris Shemmets
Guest
Chris Shemmets

What a joke this city’s become. It’s so sad that cycling is associated with a backwards, regressive obstructionist movement championed by this blog. We, the majority of Portland, want infrastructure improvements. And that sometimes includes modifying the design of our 50+ year old interstate system. GASP! It’s too bad our economy depends on, you know, the rapid movement of goods and services and not upvoting each others’ kneejerk reactions on Twitter.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

What improvements do you see this project making?

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

You might want to reexamine your definition of what constitutes an “infrastructure improvement” because you’ll find that most of us want exactly that. We just disagree that building or expanding a freeway constitutes an improvement in infrastructure.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Hear hear, Aaron. I keep thinking what *else* we could do with the BILLION DOLLARS this freeway widening is going to cost. I live in a part of Portland that doesn’t even have one continuous, somewhat level bike lane to downtown. Why not? – because it’s apparently too expensive to build that bike lane, which really means that ODOT has decided to put their priorities – and our tax dollars – elsewhere, namely into a bloated and unnecessary freeway expansion, so people who live in Vancouver can have a slightly shorter commute.

rain panther
Guest
rain panther

If it’s “the rapid movement of goods and services” you’re interested in, widening the freeway won’t do much good if (I really should say “when”) it continues to be clogged with single occupancy vehicles. How about first we try limiting the number of vehicles getting in the way of our precious, precious goods and services?

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

OMG YES!!! I constantly hear the argument about moving “goods and services”. Well, if that’s SO important to you, if you TRULY believe that, maybe try leaving your car at home so it’s not in the way of the trucks transporting those goods!

What was that? You don’t believe there are good alternatives for you to get where you need/want without a car? Hmmm, so maybe some more money should go towards infrastructure that would create better alternatives?

squareman
Subscriber

This whole subthread gets my nomination for “comment of the week”

joan
Subscriber

I followed most of the meeting while it happened and was pretty upset by Alando Simpson’s comments. ODOT will be asking a Black-owned business to further damage a historically Black neighborhood and worsen air pollution at one of the few Black-and-brown-majority schools in the entire state. This is not restorative justice or reparations. This is asking the Black community to participate in its own continued repression. Support for Black businesses should not come at the expense of Black children. ODOT should truly be ashamed of itself.

And coming up with a logo that shows Black people as white is something else. T-shirts for a freeway expansion? WTF ODOT.

At the meeting with the Albina board, they also discussed the sound wall at great length. It’s extraordinary that ODOT’s pitch for a freeway expansion includes building a sound wall at Harriet Tubman that they could build right now. If they were so concerned about Tubman kids, why haven’t they built that wall already? Answer: they don’t care about anything except building highways.

squareman
Subscriber

Uh-oh. I making another nomination for comment of the week.

Roberta
Guest
Roberta

Somebody give this woman the mic!

Andrew N
Guest
Andrew N

Wow. Borderline speechless. That picture is utterly racist in form and intent.

“how we are showing up in communities”? How about you just go the f*ck away for once? You already destroyed the community decades ago and the lipstick on this pig has been smeared beyond repair. Sometimes legal action is truly the only way to stop abusers and manipulators like the bureaucrats and engineers at ODOT…

EP
Guest
EP

I think the only “restorative justice” ODOT can provide is if they cap I-5 from the Rose quarter north to Rosa Parks and build parks and plant trees and add some housing in an attempt to restore the neighborhoods they paved over. Paying one business a bunch of money does not equal justice.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

Anyone else reverse image search those models? A bunch of stock photos seem to pop up. Very inspiring ODOT.
comment image

Shawn Small
Guest
Shawn Small

rebecca
Guest
rebecca

I’m very inspired.

rebecca
Guest
rebecca

Oops, links didn’t make it.
another stock photo examplecomment image?format=1500w&content-type=image%2Fjpeg

Another onecomment image

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

Someone could find these models and ask if they’d be models for a No More Freeways shirt. 😉

dan
Guest
dan

Like Shawn Small, I’m speechless at the levels of cynicism ODOT is displaying. You’d think that in the post-Trump era we’ve seen it all, but apparently there are still new depths to plumb.

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

Wow technology. (I had thought a couple of local models had gotten paid for a day’s work from ODOT. Oh well.)

maxD
Guest
maxD

that is so cynical of ODOT to not bother using local models.

squareman
Subscriber

Oh, the disingenuousness and lack of actual ingenuity of ODOT, neither know any nadir. Seems they can only go lower. :/

Madison
Guest
Madison

You were doxxing the models?

X
Guest
X

Doxxing is revealing their personal information, period. Looking for examples of the commercial use of images they sold seems fair. If they aren’t getting paid for each use that’s a problem but not one we can do anything about.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

This is not doxxing. He just used a search tool to show that ODOT stole or purchased stock images from the internet and then photoshopped their shirts onto them.

squareman
Subscriber

So, they’ve gone from trying to greenwash the project to trying to blackwash it. Classy. Real classy.

SD
Guest
SD

Just like subdivisions are named after the natural environments that have been destroyed to build them, ODOT is “branding” a freeway expansion based on the urban community that they destroyed and want to continue to pollute and demolish.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

This is so gross.

Vernon Martin
Guest
Vernon Martin

Before you oppose the project in a “knee-jerk” fashion check out these biking and pedestrian improvements to the area that will happen. They look very good. I’m personally supportive of the project moving ahead.

https://www.i5rosequarter.org/local-street-bicycle-and-pedestrian-facilities/

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

They’re eliminating the Flint overpass, so there are negatives as well. Do you think those bike improvements are worth $500 million dollars?

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Hey Vernon. Welcome. There is a reason the BAC and PAC committees as well as the disbanded ODOT advisory committee, the mayor, most of the council, etc. all oppose the project.

The image you see is (which doesn’t look too bad I agree), as far as I can tell from the existing renderings/designs, the only physically separated space proposed other than the somewhat puzzling Clackamas ped bridge. All of the proposed facilities would be immediately next to lanes expanded for car capacity with no prioritization for pedestrian/bike facilities. No protected intersections. No signal priority for people walking/biking. The status quo is abysmal in this area (which is one of the most heavily travelled bike facilities in the city), but the proposal is basically the same (perhaps slightly worse due to the removal of Flint.

Here is the report on the proposed facilities, most of which (eg East Broadway) are already planned regardless of the I5RQ project.

Here is a prior story on the proposed bike facilities on bikeportland.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Hi Vernon: eawriste makes some good points here. If you look really closely at the so-called “improvements” for peds and bikes, they are really not all that great. Have you ridden the Flint Ave bridge lately? Then you’d know it’s an efficient, straight shot over I-5 to the Rose Quarter and downtown. The Rose Qtr project removes the Flint Ave bridge and envisions a circuitous route over I-5 that makes it much harder for bikes and peds – all so cars can have the straightest, most unimpeded route. It’s not a win for any mode except cars.

Vernon Martin
Guest
Vernon Martin

Thanks earwiste and Fred, I’ll look at the resources you provided more carefully. Maybe I was swayed by that nice ODOT graphic. I’ll definitely take a fellow biker’s word over our mayor or city council’s opinions. After their 2 recent bumbleheaded actions (park rangers to fight gun violence and siting homeless shelters in public parks) I’m of the opinion they are from another planet.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Glad to hear you’re looking at the evidence. I tend to ignore expert opinion when research is readily available (experts are more fallible than convergence of evidence). So the vast majority of the time when freeways get widened, a brief period of lessened congestion occurs. Then, as more people drive (induced demand) congestion returns. US cities keep trying to relearn this lesson.

This problem has been essentially solved in a few cities around the world (eg Stokholm, London) via congestion pricing. Here is the FHA definition, and the example from Stockholm. If you want actual research I can find that. Just know that congestion pricing is often incredibly unpopular (people don’t want to pay for something that is free) until it becomes apparent that it all but eliminates congestion when done well (then it becomes generally accepted). Cue people who believe it affects the poor more (which is certainly possible if done poorly). Here is evidence to the contrary.

soren
Guest
soren

Congestion pricing in London and Stockholm is nothing like the regressive policy being promoted by some white politicians and mostly white active transportation activists in Portland. In London and Stockholm affluent city centers with ample transportation options (and park and ride lots*) were targeted. Thus, the pricing models in London and Stockholm were intentionally designed to disproportionately target affluent drivers as opposed to lower income people driving to jobs on the urban periphery. Taxing traffic on I5 and I205 (as opposed to traffic entering the city center) will, by definition, result in a higher impact on lower income people (who have been forced to the periphery due our brutal crony capitalist housing market).

Given Portland’s history of compromise that throws poor people under the bus, I have no confidence that the usual suspects will not discard their equity rhetoric to ram through a tax that disproportionately effects poor people#. In fact, that was exactly what leading advocates for congestion pricing were willing to do a few years ago when it became clear that even a mildly progressive policy was an absolute political non-starter.

And when one adds the shift to “work from home” for affluent people and the fact that virtually all congestion pricing revenue would fund fossil fuel infrastructure (freeways) Portland’s very poorly conceived congestion pricing proposal is likely to be deeply regressive.

https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/congestion-charge

https://www.roadtraffic-technology.com/projects/stockholm-congestion/

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2020/05/29/congestion-pricing-can-be-built-for-equity/

*anathema to market urbanists

#poor people who are taxed would have to pay a higher percentage of their income

maxD
Guest
maxD

IN addition to removing the Flint Bridge and replacing it with out-of direction routes with more grade for people biking, ODOT is proposing to build larger ramps with multiple lanes and huge radii. This speeds up people driving on surface streets and creates much longer crosswalks for people walking. Longer crosswalks across faster streets is proven dangerous. The amount of time saved a person driving by speeding up driving on Broadway is negligible, but the increased danger is significant- does this sound like an improvement or acceptable trade-off? The open space that are shown as plazas and parks will be built on small caps needed to construct the highway. They are leftover spaces being green-washed , or shown as amenities to sell the concept. Because the cap is not continuous, the noise will be horrendous. These open spaces will be surrounded by multiple lanes of traffic that this project will speed up and make more dangerous, and span even more traffic than is there today. These open spaces will be unbearably loud, highly polluted, dangerous to access, and unpleasant. Since the caps will not support structures, these spaces will be completely un-activated. They are building dad, blighted unhealthy urban spaces and pitching them as parks.

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

Vernon — I’d suggest that you look at the multi-years of analysis that has been done by many in Portland and elsewhere on the proposed design of this project, based on the website you link above, before you assume that those who oppose this project in its current form are reacting in any type of a “knee-jerK”, ill-considered, less-than-thoughtful fashion.

X
Guest
X

I am not a skater but maybe the freeway deck would be good for them? Lots of hardscape, planters, curbs, and benches with no people because it’s not close to anything but a freeway. Maybe ODOT could develop it as a destination skate park. It’s not going to be good for much else…if you give the skaters a blank slate they’ll design and build it for free!

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

plants in the family rosacea have petals in multiples of five. The tee shirt image has six petals. This has nothing to do with bicycles or transportation or equity but it does reflect on attention to detail. Portland is the Rose City. They could at least get that right

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

“There is an estimated $100 million that is going to go back into the hands of a black-owned construction firm. Period. It’s one of the largest, if not the largest contract ever issued to a black-owned civil engineering firm in our entire country.”

ODOT chooses language like the above to avoid saying, “We’ll be further destroying your neighborhood, but at least we’ll hire you to do the job.”

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I always find the ODOT-bashing here on BP rather amusing. Y’all elect your legislators and governor, then they ram freeway projects through your city AND appoint the ODOT head honchos, then you blame ODOT for your bad voting choices. Total denial of guilt as usual.

But let’s be honest here, ODOT didn’t destroy Albina, the state, feds and city did it by funding I-5 in the 50s, and of course all those (white) voters/drivers did their part too. Maybe your parents or grandparents voted for the elected officials who approved it, or chose to not block it like the later Mt. Hood project through the white parts of town?

Meanwhile ODOT is doing a rather nice $110 million job on outer Powell through the current poorest and most ethnically diverse part of the city, which of course gets hardly any coverage relative to RQ or CRC.

The more things change, the more they stay exactly the same, at least in white ‘liberal’ Portland.

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

You are misreading this. “Further destroying” does not imply the current actor was the previous perpetrator, simply the current action is continuing an already started process. It is adding insult to injury.

PATRICK
Guest
PATRICK

Gotta hand it to ODOT, Brilliant strategy.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Yes, I’ll need to remember it. Cynical and perverse, but very effective.

Opus the Poet
Guest

BS helps the flowers grow, but I don’t think this will grow the Rose Quarter project. I can smell the stink all the way to Dallas.

Park
Guest
Park

Are there any adults at ODOT? This is shameful.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

They are adults, but you can pretty easily tell that they don’t care about Portland, and aren’t actually trying here.

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

Serious question: How the holy hell is this not mascotting?

Tom
Guest
Tom

Not sure how to read this. If they picked a stock photo with white people, would that have been better? Or worse?

I also find it a little racist to assume that black people oppose the project.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

The only nice thing about having government bureaucrats give presentations remotely is that everybody can listen and participate in their shenanigans.

In the old days you had to show up at some obscure time in some obscure community center and hope that someone cell phone was listening. Now we are finding out exactly what government people think. Not surprisingly they don’t think much.

I hope the collective governments are realizing that their choice to steal land from the people wear their homes used to reside under The land to which the freeway now sets; those choices made so many years ago are the catalyst for the protests of today. Until the collective governments pay that debt, there will be no meaningful debate. The white person in Oregon has taking it one step too far and literally putting their freeway in the backyard of a largely black school. But even the white people can’t even see how disgusting it is