Why are we expanding highways now?

Updated: Mar 6

And are we serious about the climate crisis and racial justice?

As Oregon debates the future of our highway infrastructure, it is important to keep in mind both the climate catastrophe, and racial equity and restorative justice.

There is abundant data that suggests that widening freeways often leads to an increase in demand with no long-term reduction in congestion. If we are going to be serious about addressing the contribution of passenger vehicles to climate change, we need to prioritize non-highway projects like public transit, bikes and walking routes. Moving forward with the Rose Quarter Improvement Project and Interstate Bridge Replacement project as currently planned is moving backwards.

With our history of destroying homes of Black families to make way for construction projects meant to benefit white Portlanders—including the medical center, Memorial Coliseum, and a new stretch of the Interstate-5 freeway, we must look at these projects with a racial justice lens. However, as the Oregon Department of Transportation looked to solicit input from the people in these neighborhoods and those historically affected, many who participated felt they were expected to be a rubber stamp. “I don’t like being a token, when you’ve already made a decision about what’s going to happen,” one participant lamented.

Neither of these projects should move forward as planned. We need to go back to the drawing board.

Photo by Stan from Pexels