The ODOT Files

The Oregon Department of Transportation has a deeply dysfunctional organizational culture that favors driving cars and trucks at the expense of everything else. The ODOT Files is a collection of stories that illustrate that fact.

Cleveland High principal worried about traffic violence on National Walkout Day

by on March 14th, 2018 at 9:55 am

Sign from a protest outside Cleveland High in May 2015.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Today across America school students are walking out of class to bring attention to gun violence, the need for comprehensive reform of gun laws, and to say “Never again!” when it comes to school shootings.

Most Portland Public Schools administrators support the walkout. As a parent of kids in three PPS schools, we’ve gotten detailed emails and notices from each one in preparation of today’s actions.

Last night I heard from a parent of a student at Cleveland High School that the email sent by Principal Ayesha Freeman included a strong warning about a major safety concern that has nothing to do with gun violence. Freeman shared four specific items in her email aimed at getting parents and students ready. One of them was about SE Powell Boulevard — the state-controlled arterial road that runs outside the school on its southern side.

Here’s what Freeman wrote in her email:[Read more…]

The ODOT Files: Caving to pressure, a bridge sidewalk in Grants Pass will be three inches wider

by on March 13th, 2018 at 3:42 pm

A wheelchair user tries to squeeze through the pinch point on the Caveman Bridge.
(Screengrab from a video made for HASL Center for Independent Living.)

The ODOT Files is a collection of stories that illustrate how the Oregon Department of Transportation prioritizes auto and trucks users at the expense of everyone — and everything — else.

The Oregon Deparment of Transportation is spending $5.3 million to update and make seismic retrofits to the historic Caveman Bridge in Grants Pass. The project goal is to bring the bridge back to is “Depression era beauty” by repairing cracks, broken concrete, exposed rebar, and delamination of the deck. But for people who use the bridge sidewalk — especially those who use wheelchairs and other vehicles — there’s nothing beautiful about narrow pinch points.

And there was nothing in the plans to widen them until the agency’s hand was forced.
[Read more…]

The ODOT Files: Portland Mercury checks in on freeway tolling efforts

by on March 7th, 2018 at 2:01 pm

“Significant congestion will exist in 2027 on the I-5 and I-205 study corridors, even with all the improvements listed in the Regional Transportation Plan.”
— from a report published by ODOT as part of their Value Pricing Feasibility Analysis

The ODOT Files is our attempt to keep you informed of stories from around the web that illustrate how our state transportation agency is falling down on the job.

The latest entry into the ODOT Files is a story by Dirk VanderHart published today in the Portland Mercury: A New Report Shows Highway Widening Won’t Solve Portland’s Congestion Woes.

The piece centers around ODOT’s Value Pricing Advisory Committee, a group of advocates, electeds, and transportation leaders tasked with determining whether or not we should toll highways — and if so, how exactly it should be implemented. The central tension here is that ODOT wants to build lots of new highways (including an expansion of I-5 through the Rose Quarter) and there’s increasing political and public demand to consider tolling them before — or instead of — building them.

Then there’s the fact that expanding highways does not relieve congestion. And based on the Mercury story, even ODOT’s own analysts are trying to tell them that:
[Read more…]

Opinion: To make Portland safer, ODOT’s Rian Windsheimer must go

Go By Bike by on February 19th, 2018 at 1:00 pm

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This post is written by Kiel Johnson, owner of the Go By Bike bike valet in South Waterfront.

The Oregon Department of Transportation, under the leadership of Rian Windsheimer, is trying to remove a bike lane on SE 26th without providing any satisfying reasons as to why this is a good idea. This should alarm anyone who thinks that Portland should be safer for bikes and that our transportation system should be designed around evidence. From favoring auto capacity over transit, to spending $450 million to widen a freeway while many of the most dangerous streets that are under state control lack safe crossings, ODOT has repeatedly proven they are not acting in the best interests of the people of Portland. If ODOT is going to regain the trust of the community they serve, there needs to be a cultural change at ODOT that starts at the top. The director of ODOT who oversees Portland, Rian Windsheimer, must go.

[Read more…]

Guest opinion: ODOT management audit misleads, omits key facts

by on February 1st, 2017 at 1:12 pm

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

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.
[Read more…]

City, advocates say ODOT’s plans for outer Powell buffered bike lanes are not enough

by on January 30th, 2017 at 4:24 pm

Help is coming to Powell east of 122nd, but will it be enough to attract a wider swath of bicycle riders?

18 months of debate about how to provide safe bike access on a 14-block stretch of Southeast Powell Boulevard is finally coming to an end. At least the Oregon Department of Transportation hopes it is.

Saying they are now months behind schedule, ODOT wants to move forward into the final design stage of a project that will rebuild Powell between SE 122nd and 136th. With $17 million from the State Legislature and another $3 million from Metro, the latest incarnation of ODOT’s Outer Powell Safety Project will add a host of updates to this state highway (U.S. Route 26), which has one of the worst crash records of any road in Oregon. This project will bring long-awaited changes and additions to signals, sidewalks, intersections, landscaping, crosswalks, and bike lanes.
[Read more…]

Despite safety rhetoric, ODOT looks into raising highway truck speeds

by on December 5th, 2016 at 3:55 pm

"Higher Speed Limit: No More Need to Speed" says an ODOT sign following speed limit increase in March 2016.(Photo: ODOT)

“Higher Speed Limit: No More Need to Speed” says an ODOT sign following speed limit increase in March 2016.
(Photo: ODOT)

The faster a vehicle travels, the more likely it is to hurt its operator or other road users. Advocates know this, first responders know this, traffic engineers know this, safety experts knows this. It’s a simple concept that fuels a lot of policy and advocacy — yet some politicians are still enthralled with the idea that the benefits of going faster outweigh the human costs.

After we got our first clue about two weeks ago, we’ve now confirmed that the Oregon Department of Transportation has commenced an engineering report on raising truck speeds on interstate highways. The move comes after an unnamed lawmaker said they plan to introduce legislation in the 2017 session to raise the speed limit on I-5 and two other major highways.

Let’s back up a bit…
[Read more…]

Fact check: The St. Johns Bridge does not need 19-foot wide lanes for freight traffic

by on November 9th, 2016 at 2:59 pm

The St. Johns Bridge looking west. (Photo: Joe Mabel/Wikipedia)

The St. Johns Bridge looking west.
(Photo: Joe Mabel/Wikipedia)

Despite multiple demands over the years to improve bike access on the St. Johns Bridge, the Oregon Department of Transportation has used many different excuses for why the current lane configuration simply cannot change. And it turns out their latest excuse — that state design guidelines for freight traffic require 19-foot wide lanes in both directions — is untrue.
[Read more…]