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Will Today’s Student Protest Over Freeway Pollution Influence Decision Makers?

Portland, Ore. – ( Cupola Media / No More Freeways)  Youth climate leaders and Harriet Tubman Middle School students will be holding a rally outside the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) headquarters tonight. They are demanding that the state agency conduct more rigorous study of the proposed $500 million Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion due to their concerns about the proposal’s impact to air pollution, carbon emissions and traffic congestion. They will be joined by Portland Public School Board Member Michelle DePass, Neighbors for Clean Air, and other members of the No More Freeways Coalition concerned about ODOT’s proposals.

“40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation,” said Sunrise Movement PDX organizer Anna Kemper. “I will be 33 in 2030 when my climate fate is sealed – my future depends on Oregon choosing to invest in public transportation, biking and walking instead of spending billions on roads. Climate leaders don’t widen freeways.”

Opposition to the proposed freeway expansion overwhelmed the community hearing held in March, and community members submitted over 2200 comments opposing the project due to concerns of public health, transportation, climate, and traffic safety. The No More Freeways coalition conducted their own independent analysis of ODOT’s traffic projections for the proposal and uncovered numerous demonstrable errors and missing data necessary to justify ODOT’s justifications for this proposal. Given these shortcomings and widespread opposition, the demand that ODOT conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement for the $500 million proposal was echoed by numerous community leaders including Portland Public Schools, Business for Better Portland, State Representative Karin Power, Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, Oregon Metro, Albina Vision Trust, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Oregon Walks, the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees, and the Eliot Neighborhood Association. In the past week, both Speaker Tina Kotek and State Senator Michael Dembrow have also expressed their support for the agency to slow the process and conduct a full EIS.

Back in August ODOT signaled to community stakeholders in private meetings they intended to pursue a more thorough, rigorous Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) after the significant community opposition to the existing Environmental Assessment surfaced last spring. However, the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC), which oversees ODOT, is scheduled to vote on Tuesday, December 17 at their monthly meeting in Lebanon, Oregon, on whether the proposal warrants a full Environmental Impact Statement.

“ODOT needs to be held accountable by these brave young Oregonians justifiably angry with the agency’s lack of transparency and their willingness to deceive the public about the potential outcomes of this project,” said Aaron Brown, an organizer with No More Freeways. “All available evidence suggests that ODOT’s freeway expansion proposal will make more students sick, leave more Oregonians stuck in miserable traffic congestion, and directly hinder Portland’s ability to hit our carbon emission targets. ODOT must listen to the thousands of Oregonians demanding a more rigorous study about the potential health, safety, traffic, and climate impacts of this monstrously expensive and destructive project. Anything short of a full Environmental Impact Statement signals loud and clear: this agency is not interested in accountability to current and future generations depending on climate leadership. The youth climate leaders are watching, and will hold our government to task as necessary.”

The No More Freeway Coalition, founded in 2017, has worked to oppose ODOT’s plans to widen freeways across the Portland Metro Region. The organization has most notably organized to oppose the Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion Project, and has also advocated for congestion pricing and better transportation investments at Metro’s T2020 task force hearings and JPACT hearings.

At 3:15pm, Marilyn Sheener, Edin Cook and Anastasia Pyz of Sunrise Movement will hand deliver their written testimony inside demanding an Environmental Impact Statement inside ODOT’s office. Marilyn, Edin and Anastasia will be available for interview after the letter delivery.

Our rally is scheduled from 4:00-6:00pm; there will be a public art demonstration with light displayed on the ODOT building, and rally attendees will be asked to write a postcard to OTC Chair Bob Van Brocklin demanding an Environmental Impact Statement. Sunrise will also be providing hot cider and cocoa, and bringing numerous banners and signs.

At 4:50, the rally’s presentation is scheduled to begin, with Sunrise youth leading the rally with songs. Scheduled speakers for Tuesday’s rally include Harriet Tubman Middle School eighth grade students Adah Crandall and Malina Yuen, Portland Public School Board Member Michelle DePass, Tubman MS teacher Bryan Chu, Neighbors for Clean Air Program Director Tori Heroux, “Induced Demand” viral internet sensation Paul Rippey, No More Freeways organizer Aaron Brown, transportation engineer Brian Davis, and transportation safety advocate Michelle DuBarry, whose toddler was killed by traffic violence on an ODOT-owned street.

No More Freeways and Cupola Media created this video which shows the explicit impact this freeway expansion would have on Harriet Tubman Middle School; this video is available for public distribution and broadcast, and is available here:

Freeway Widening and Harriet Tubman Middle School from Cupola Media on Vimeo.

 


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