In the first week of April, two different committees – one elected (Metro Council) and one appointed (Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC)) — made decisions that will move forward the widening of a 1.5-mile section of I-5 Rose Quarter for nearly $1 billion through a community of color writhing from decades of abuse from city planning. This project is clearly antithetical to the priorities propounded by our city, state, and regional leaders — climate change, Vision Zero (no traffic deaths), and racial justice – the triple threat.
After 60 years of these highway projects, we know what the reasons and results are: $1B to placate the ruling class and business community, at the expense of a community of color, adding car trips and crashes to our streets while not solving congestion, and exhausting funds that could solve these problems rather than exacerbate them.
So, What Went Wrong?
I contend there are 3 major issues here:
- Institutional Intransigence: ODOT was developed under systemic racism for white flight, and has systemic racism built into every plan, performance measure, and design standard. It has had decades to build a legislative lobby and a sham public process to grow its authority and revenue without any agenda change.
- The Talk and Walk Disparity: We have important people at the state, regional, and local levels that can talk eloquently about equity, climate, and Vision Zero, but then vote against them.
- The Inequity Norm: Most of us believe our democratic and public process creates equity, but no; it maintains and exacerbates inequity and privilege. Business-as-usual maintains privilege.
Quotes that align nicely with the above issues:
“We know that as we built unjust social systems and unjust legal systems and unjust freeways and unsafe streets… we can unbuild them.” Rukaiyah Adams, 2019.
“Only the language was polite; the rejection was firm and unequivocal.” Martin Luther King.
“As we critique the racist power, we show our privilege and inaction by critiquing every effective strategy, ultimately justifying our inaction on the comfortable seat of privilege. “ Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, p 214.