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This story is by Joe Cortright. It first appeared on City Observatory.
Four days before Christmas, on a Wednesday morning just after dawn, Elizabeth Meyers was crossing Sandy Boulevard in Portland, near 78th Avenue, just about a block from her neighborhood library. She was struck and killed, becoming Portland’s 50th traffic fatality of 2017.
A proposed freeway widening project will tear out one of Portland’s most used bike routes,
This story is by Portland writer and economist Joe Cortright. It first appeared on City Observatory.
We’re putting the I-5 Rose Quarter project under a microscope, in part because we think it reveals some deep-seated biases in the way transportation planning takes place, not just in Portland, but in many cities. Today we turn our attention to plans to tear out a key local street which serves as a major bikeway in north Portland.
A quick refresher: I-5 is the main north-south route through Portland, and the Oregon Department of Transportation is proposing to spend at least $450 million to widen it with new lanes on a one-mile stretch just north of downtown. A growing coalition of community groups has organized to fight the project as wasteful, ineffective and at odds with the region’s climate change and Vision Zero goals.
There are a lot of big questions about the Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) competence and capability. Unfortunately the new $1 million audit undertaken by McKinsey and Company answers none of them.
The audit is misleading, inaccurate and omits key facts about ODOT’s substantive management problems. In effect, the audit actually conceals some of ODOT’s most expensive blunders.
An audit that doesn’t acknowledge, much less analyze, obvious problems can’t provide meaningful solutions. For example, auditors who can’t even correctly identify the cost of the agency’s largest construction project—and who purposely omit it from their one statistical chart showing cost overruns—aren’t worth the money they’re being paid, because they haven’t done their jobs.
Why does this matter? Because the Oregon legislature is about to begin a debate over transportation funding that could result in hundreds of millions of dollars flowing through ODOT’s hands.