Comment of the Week: Tolling, trust, and ODOT

Welcome to the Comment of the Week, where we highlight good comments in order to inspire more of them. You can help us choose our next one by replying with “comment of the week” to any comment you think deserves recognition. Please note: These selections are not endorsements.


Comments came roaring back this week with strong reader discussion threads on our posts about spicy exchanges at the legislature and a new initiative on engagement from the City of Portland. We fielded several “comment of the week” nominations, and have chosen a winner…

The ODOT freeway tolling issue is complicated, but a commenter named Adam, in a colorful extended metaphor which emphasized the trust issue, compared ODOT to “used car salesmen” and made the point that tolling—how the money is used and how it is implemented—is essentially a political question. He called on lawmakers to put forth a vision.

Here’s what Adam wrote:

No one trusts ODOT because its leaders and spokespeople speak and behave like used car salesmen. They’re hacks who use obvious cloak and dagger tricks to placate and obfuscate and muddle and tire out their “customers,” until they buy the lemon as is, with that TruCoat included.

ODOT is supposed to be managed and staffed by professional civil servants who do the bidding of elected officials, like Governor Kotek, and the Legislative Assembly. These officials need to be telling ODOT what the vision for tolling is and crafting laws based on that vision. If that vision is that tolling can only be used to fund new freeways and the maintenance of existing freeways, so be it, if the voters don’t mind. But treating ODOT like it’s some thinktank of innovative transportation policies and multi-modal solutions is foolhardy. ODOT builds roads for cars and trucks. That’s it. They’re not really qualified to do anything else. They can’t even manage a highway construction budget consistently well.

Asking this ODOT to get back to you with reliable data and analysis of anything other than how many lanes they think the ideal freeway ought to have, is like asking Jerry Lundegaard to speak with his manager about removing that TruCoat charge from the price of the car.

Lawmakers need to develop their tolling vision and strategy on their own and hope ODOT can follow their directions whenever the time comes to implement the tolling plan.

Thank you Adam! You can find Adam’s comment and lively discussion under the original post.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

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Pablo R
Pablo R
1 year ago

I see a LOT of extremism in this blog. ODOT may not be perfect but they do a lot of good as well.

Here’s an example:

https://www.oregon.gov/odot/programs/pages/bikeped.aspx

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  Pablo R

Hi Pablo R,

You are new to this site… so welcome!

Also, we cover a ton of ODOT stuff on here… The good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s not extremist to be highly skeptical of ODOT’s motives given their history and where most of their money and time is spent. Thanks for the comment.

robert wallis
robert wallis
1 year ago
Reply to  Pablo R

To the core, ODOT is about expanding our auto-centric transportation system without regard for those who do not drive cars. Any “good” they do is the absolute minimum they need to do to get their next highway expansion approved. In my mind “extreme” is when you deprive those who choose or are unable to drive a car the ability to walk or bike around safely, which is exactly what ODOT and every other state highway department does.

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  robert wallis

First, thanks to Lisa for calling out this funny comment, which I missed. Comparing ODOT to the William H. Macy character in Fargo is really clever and apt – though I’m sure the folks at ODOT wouldn’t be flattered by the comparison.

I’m guessing the folks at ODOT would say that they are just giving the people what they want, and – let’s face it – what most people want nowadays is to drive as quickly and as heedlessly as they can, everywhere and anywhere. It’s the curse of technology, which is to favor the EASIER option in every case: When the wooden plow came along, who wanted to dig in a field all day when you could guide the plow behind oxen? And when the John Deere power tractor came along, who wanted to walk behind oxen all day? The car is no different. Bikes are actually older than automobiles, but when people saw how easy it was to drive cars, they got in and drove and have never looked back. Only problem is that our automotive fixation is now killing us and the planet.

People who ride bikes today are asking for their OWN dedicated cycling infrastructure, and I think that’s the big challenge that befuddles DOTs everywhere. It’s just not in ODOT’s or any DOT’s DNA to build cycling infrastructure, since DOT leaders and other power brokers do NOT ride bikes. Cycling is still a fringe activity in Oregon and everywhere else in the USA, much as we wish it were otherwise. I don’t see it changing until PEOPLE WITH MONEY need to depend on their bikes to get around. Then we’ll see a clamor for better cycling infra.

X
X
1 year ago
Reply to  Pablo R

ODOT provision for motor vehicle transportation is almost a blank check. Project costs are in the hundreds of millions and rarely come in on budget.

By comparison, spending on bike or ped facilities is a lot less. ODOT doesn’t think of bike paths or sidewalks as goods in themselves, they think of them as an appendix to highway developments, if at all. Their favorite big budget projects are limited access highways on which walking and biking are actually illegal.

Get that? Facilities for people biking or walking don’t get ODOT attention on their own merits, they just toss in a bone as an afterthought.

Serenity
Serenity
1 year ago
Reply to  Pablo R

This sounds like you work for ODOT. Do you work for ODOT?

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 year ago
Reply to  Serenity

***comment deleted. Please be more sensitive to others SolarEclipse and work harder to make your points in a respectful way. Thanks. — Jonathan ***

Pablo R
Pablo R
1 year ago
Reply to  Serenity

No I don’t. Just a moderate bike rider in a city of far left extremists I guess…..

joan
1 year ago
Reply to  Pablo R

I wonder how much Oregon taxpayers paid “Pablo R” to make that comment. And it’s certainly an indication of ODOT’s standing in our community that I presume any positive comment here about ODOT is likely made under a pseudonym by a person working for an ODOT-funded social media consulting agency.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 year ago
Reply to  joan

***comment deleted. Please be more sensitive to others SolarEclipse and work harder to make your points in a respectful way. Thanks. — Jonathan ***

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Exactly… respond to the comment, not the commenter.

Kurt
Kurt
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

Well the comment doesn’t have much merit. There is a LOT of unspecified extremism on the site and ODOT does a lot of good followed by a link to ODOT platitudes. The comment is worthless.

Pablo R
Pablo R
1 year ago
Reply to  joan

Ah…now we have far left conspiracy theories….I thought those were the realm of the far right. Guess not. Nope just a moderate voice in a sea of extremism in Portland. You’d be surprised if you all moved just a bit out of your “Portland bubble” you may actually be able to improve our transportation safety here.

your_friendly_neighborhood_marxist
your_friendly_neighborhood_marxist
1 year ago
Reply to  Pablo R

Portland’s neoliberal bike subculture can’t cope with the reality that there is a majority in Portland, including much of the working class, that supports driving infrastructure.