At TriMet board meeting, GM defends his advocacy for freeway expansion projects

At the TriMet board meeting on Wednesday, the agency’s General Manager Neil McFarlane pushed back against claims that he’s a “freeway builder.”

Last month we shared news (first reported by The Portland Tribune) that McFarlane advocated for three freeway expansion projects in the Portland region during a speech to the Washington County Public Affairs Forum on February 20th. The comments were met with strong criticism by transportation reform activists who felt the leader of our region’s transit agency should not be stumping for projects that expand urban freeway capacity and make driving easier.

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Activists will speak out against GM’s support of freeway expansions at TriMet board meeting

Jessica Engelman of BikeLoudPDX.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The thought of our regional public transit agency advocating for urban freeway expansions — including one in Portland’s central city — does not sit well with many transportation reform activists.

After TriMet GM Neil McFarlane told an audience last month that “It would be nice to make some progress on” three freeway “bottlenecks” in order to “keep our region moving,” volunteers with BikeLoudPDX decided it was time to speak out.

The plucky group is planning to attend the upcoming TriMet board meeting. They want to tell the people who appointed McFarlane that some Portlanders don’t think he should promote a billion dollars of regional transportation funds just to make driving easier.

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A preview ride on TriMet’s new Orange Line

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
MAX Orange Line preview ride-1.jpg

TriMet GM Neil McFarlane and Washington
Secretary of Transportation Lynn
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

TriMet’s new Orange Line (a.k.a. the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project) doesn’t officially open until September 12th, but the agency has been busy for weeks now offering preview rides for various organizations and interested parties.

Speaking of parties, last night I attended an event hosted by the Portland chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (a group that promotes professional advancement for women in the transportation industry). We met in the lobby of CH2M Hill, the massive consulting and engineering firm conveniently located just steps from the MAX line on Southwest Lincoln and 4th Avenue.

I snacked on light appetizers and chatted with a few folks before TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane grabbed the crowd’s attention and shared a few words. He mostly thanked a bunch of people (many of whom were in the room) who helped deliver the $1.5 billion project. He also touted a long list of stats that spoke to the project’s economic impact. “This project happened just when Oregon needed it most,” McFarlane said, “We created 14,000 jobs at a time when the state was economically depressed.”

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