How bad have things gotten for the Oregon Department of Transportation and their reputation for mismanagement of urban arterials?
The agency has been made the subject of a satirical news post from high school journalism students.
The Cleveland Onion is an Instagram account created by students from Cleveland High School. It’s a nod to The Onion and is a satirical companion to the school’s official newspaper. Cleveland High sits on the corner of Southeast Powell Blvd (ODOT’s Highway 26) and SE 26th Avenue — just across the street from where many students and staff witnessed the horrific killing of Sarah Pliner when she was hit by a truck driver during their school lunch period on October 4th.
And the Pliner tragedy was not the first time Cleveland has faced the reality of violent traffic outside their school. In 2018 their principal had to issue a traffic safety warning to students ahead of a planned walkout.
Late last month The Cleveland Onion posted a photo of that intersection along with the headline: “ODOT Responds To High Cycling Fatalities By Adding Four Lanes To Powell Blvd to Prevent Cyclists From Trying To Cross At All.”
And here’s the rest of the post:
“The problem as we see it is that all these cyclists are throwing themselves into lanes of traffic that should really be reserved for people who can afford cars.” said ODOT in a statement this morning. “The fact is that many cars and semi trucks rely on being able to drive 50 miles per hour through a school zone to complete their daily commutes. We can’t just change the rules and layouts of our roads to accommodate the lives of pedestrians and cyclists. We have decided that in order to keep all these unwanted obstructions from getting in the way of gas-paying commuters, it would be best to expand the highway into Powell park and shave a little bit off Cleveland high school.”
This post is a stinging indictment of ODOT and shows how their reputation has transcended the realm of transportation advocates and is now part of popular culture. The post works, because like any good satire, it contains a shred of believability and allows us to lean on humor to deal with a tragic topic. Well done Cleveland students!