Freeway-Widening Grifters: Woke-Washing, Fraud, and Incompetence

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If this were a commercial publication, it would have to include some kind of disclaimer. ODOT went out of its way to emphasize the “highway cover” aspects of the project, without mentioning that the project’s real purpose is to widen the freeway. The brochure is doesn’t show a single car, nor does it reveal that the project is designed to expand the freeway to as much as ten lanes wide.

Fraud: There’s No Money to Build These Buildings

It would, of course, be nice to have more housing in Albina, and to have a career development center, and to advance the redevelopment plans of the Albina Vision Trust. But in reality, none of these features is actually part of ODOT’s I-5 Rose Quarter “Improvement” (i.e., Freeway-Widening) Project.

The fundamental problem with all these imaginary buildings, including new housing, and the career development center: There’s no funding for any of them as part of the Rose Quarter “Improvement” Project. And, as we’ve shown at City Observatory, the cost of new buildings shown would run to hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite the fact that it demolished hundreds of homes to build its highways through Albina, ODOT has never provided a dime to rebuild any of them, and is saying it won’t as part of this project either.

At best, the project claims that it might provide the sites on which these mythical structures could be built, but even that claim is misleading. The Oregon Transportation Commission is now seeking to stick city and county governments with the added costs of freeway covers wide and strong enough to support this development. So while apartments and a career development center are being prominently displayed as the centerpiece of this project, ODOT isn’t paying for any of them, or even the sites on which they’ll be built. They expect others to do so. The fact that the agency pretends to care about social justice, but won’t contribute to repairing the damage its three highways caused Albina, including replacing the housing it destroyed, shows its commitment is a sham.

Incompetence: A Document Shot-Through with Typographical Errors

The full-color glossy four-page brochure, titled “Newsletter: I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project, Volume 1, Issue 2, September 2021” was delivered via bulk mail to thousands of households in North and Northeast Portland. But while ODOT took great pains to downplay the actual nature of the project (a ten-lane freeway), and to incorporate images of African-Americans and fictitious buildings, they apparently didn’t have a budget for proofreading or care enough to do a press check of their elaborate newsletter.

As publishers ourselves, we know that the occasional typo is the bane of one’s existence, and that a few always seem to sneak through. No one is perfect. But in this ODOT newsletter we counted 23 typographical errors. Here we’ve circled in red errors on pages 2–3 of the brochure.

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