Rally against Interstate 5 expansion rides in Portland, Oregon

P1020489“Twelve Lanes? That’s Insane!” chanted 70 Portlanders as they rallied at Mississippi Avenue, just south of Mason Avenue Sunday evening. The rally was accompanied by a mobile bike-carted sound system, live musicians, and a huge banner unfurled from the roof of a nearby construction site reading “More Lanes=More Cars=More Climate Change. No CRC!” The protest followed a “Pedalpalooza” bike ride earlier in the afternoon – organized by Portland Rising Tide which toured areas of North Portland impacted by the current Columbia River Crossing (CRC) proposal, talking to neighborhood activists opposed to the project.

“Building a bridge of such obese proportions in a city that prides itself for its environmental leadership is deeply hypocritical,” said Sarah Goforth. “If our city truly aims to create sustainable transportation options to reduce car traffic, then building a super-sized mega-bridge will only impede these efforts.”

Riders check out the current I-5 bridge during a break...

Riders check out the current I-5 bridge during a break...

Oregonians are concerned about the climate and air-quality impacts of the CRC, the potential for forced displacement of residents in the project path, the promotion of single-passenger transportation infrastructure at a time when oil supplies are creating global conflict and prices are rising, and about funding highways while monies for public transit and many other public services is being reduced.

The CRC is designed to enable a 34% increase in individual car traffic(1). The state of Oregon has stated a goal of reducing global warming pollution to at least 75% below 1990 levels. Transportation-caused global warming pollution is responsible for 40% of all regional global warming pollution(2). Given these facts, activists believe the money should instead be invested in reducing driving through public transit, carpooling, greater support for biking and other programs.

“If we want to reduce traffic, we need more transit options that are sustainable and convenient,” said Cheryl Green, a member of the Sprockette bicycle troupe joining the protest. “TriMet, bike commuting, and carpooling can all reduce the number of individual vehicles on the road. These traffic reducing solutions should get $4 billion instead of a bridge to accommodate more traffic.”

With all involved government agencies supporting some form of traffic expansion, Oregonians opposed to the project are now turning to non-traditional tactics. Non-violent civil disobedience has long been used by both civil rights and environmental movements when options to work within the legal framework have been exhausted.

“Given our lack of political alternatives for opposition, we are embracing Portland’s rich history of civil disobedience,” said Anthony Villagomez an organizer with Portland Rising Tide. “Our futures are not for politicians to gamble away with this project.”

The I-5 freeway has long caused negative health impacts on low-income communities and communities of color along the freeway(3): increased driving will lead to further pollution. By contrast, research shows that land use and transportation plans that encourage less driving help prevent chronic diseases associated with obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease, and respiratory illness, including asthma.

Resistance to the CRC project is expanding. Portland Rising Tide has organized protest performances in front of Portland City Council Chamber and a huge banner drop on the Morrison Street Bridge in the past year. At a large Waterfront Park rally this spring, individuals from both sides of the river voiced concerns over the CRC project, and a telephone campaign has been launched to put pressure on government officials.

More photos from BikePortland.org at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bikeportland/sets/72157619786976872/show/


(1) http://portlandtransport.com/archives/2009/04/crc_to_survey_7.html
(2) http://www.environmentamerica.org/uploads/fL/Je/fLJe0yPMhOM4E8UuMWm05w/gw-solutions.-OR.pdf
(3) http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/332268/north_portland_has_high_pollution_levels/index.html







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