2017 Year-in-review: More driving, more dying

Traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

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.

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Guest post: The death of Flint Street, one of Portland’s major bike routes

Xs mark the spot of Flint Street. White lines show location of proposed lids over I-5. (View is looking south with Moda Center/Memorial Coliseum in the background.)

(Courtesy, Jim Howell, AORTA)

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.

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Planned widening of I-5 at the Rose Quarter is Portland’s next big freeway fight

I-5 at Rose Quarter

As the project moves forward, so to are efforts to stop it.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The initial draft of Oregon’s just-passed transportation bill was an audacious money-grab from misguided politicians and the freeway advocates that fuel them. Thankfully, the final version that Governor Kate Brown signed into law today in Portland dramatically scaled-back our investment in urban freeway widening projects; but not completely.

One of the winners in the bill was a project that will expand Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter — right through the heart of Portland’s central city. And with City Council poised for a vote to add the project into Portland’s Transportation System Plan on September 7th, activists are laying the groundwork for another freeway fight.

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Oregon’s climate change hypocrisy on full display in transportation bill debate

The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

The news this week was full of stories about how Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler were beside themselves about President Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. They vowed to remain committed to climate change prevention.

Yet both of our local leaders support spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the single largest source of greenhouse gases in Oregon: emissions from cars and trucks.

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Guest opinion: ODOT management audit misleads, omits key facts

A day in Salem-3

We deserve a better ODOT before we hand them new revenue.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This guest essay was written by Joe Cortright, an urban economist with Impresa Consulting who also runs CityObservatory.org.

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.

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Active Transportation Summit dispatch: Vision Zero and the myth of freight

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
lynnpetersonlead

Lynn Peterson, former Director of Transportation
for the State of Washington, spoke at this
morning’s opening plenary.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The “shared vision” of transportation reform advocates was literally on display at the kickoff of the Oregon Active Transportation Summit this morning. The event, organized by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, is being held at the Sentinel hotel in downtown Portland today and tomorrow.

I’m covering the action for the first part of the day, then our News Editor Michael Anderson will take over in the afternoon.

The summit started with an opening speech by Lynn Peterson, the former transportation policy advisor to former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber who was recently forced out of her position as director of Washington’s Department of Transportation.

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Guest article: How should Portland pay for streets?

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
CRC Rally-151

Joe Cortright, economist in action.
(All photos by J.Maus/BikePortland unless otherwise noted)

This is a crosspost from City Observatory, the new think tank about urban policy led by Portland-based economist Joe Cortright. Many BikePortland readers will know Cortright as one of the loudest critics of the defunct Columbia River Crossing freeway expansion plan.

— by Joe Cortright

For the past several months, Portland’s City Council has been wrestling with various proposals to raise additional funds to pay for maintaining and improving city streets. After considering a range of ideas, including fees on households and businesses, a progressive income tax, and a kind of Rube Goldberg income tax pro-rated to average gasoline consumption, the council has apparently thrown up its hands on designing its own solution.

The plan now is for the street fee solution to be laid at the feet of Portland voters in the form of a civic multiple choice test: Do you want to pay for streets with a monthly household street fee, a higher gas tax, a property tax, an income tax or something else entirely?

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Economist Joe Cortright launches ‘virtual think tank’

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
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Joe Cortright, a Portland-based economist who specializes in making the case for urban innovation and active transportation and was a powerful critic of the failed Columbia River Crossing project, has launched City Observatory, a “virtual think tank” that will be “devoted to data-driven analysis of cities and the policies that shape them.”

Topics on the site will be arranged in a system of “cards,” copying a successful feature of popular news site Vox.com.

The goal of this new venture will be to spark conversations about what policies and practices will create great cities. Cortright received funding for the project from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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