Where’s the Justice in it?

Yesterday’s Trib has a lengthy article (and companion story) on health issues along the I-5 corridor in North Portland linked to the freeway and the emissions that come with it.

I think this issue (environment justice) is given far too little consideration in the Columbia Crossing discussions. The federal regs will actually require Metro to look at environment justice in this cycle of the Regional Transportation Plan update.

24 responses to “Where’s the Justice in it?”

  1. I read the article, and it sets off all sorts of alarms.

    There are literally millions of people living within 1,000 feet of our interstate freeways – are we seeing similar complaints in analagous areas? I suspect this particular case has way more to do with the mold and poor construction rather than effects of the freeway and congestion – why are we tying this up with transportation until we see something beyond anecdotal evidence of health concerns.

  2. Manzell,

    I understand your skepticism. However much more than anecdotal evidence is at hand.

    I’d suggest you read this http://www.news-medical.net/?id=21513 as just one study that makes a pretty strong connection between health and living close to freeways. Of course, in the NW we also have the issue of Benzene. The levels are incredibly high along highway corridors.

    Finally, if you ever have the opportunity I’d suggest that you meet the people involved with EJAG in Portland. It’s a pretty amazing group of (mostly) women who have both compelling stories and science to back up their work. Frankly, it’s humbling and helped me to see the close connection between transportation and their daily lives.

  3. Manzell, I totally agree that a significant factor in her case may be her building, but I’m almost positive that breathing car exhaust isn’t good for you…

  4. Isn’t it sorta ironic we’re building this brand new neighborhood –South Waterfront– with condos, a health center, and a coming senior center…right next to I-5?

    Back when I lived at Riverplace, I had a nice deck overlooking the downtown. The only problem was you couldn’t go out on the deck, or even lean against the railing, without first wiping off the accumulated grit and particulate matter.

    There is no question in my mind that living next to a freeway is not very healthy.

  5. Isn’t it sorta ironic we’re building this brand new neighborhood –South Waterfront– with condos, a health center, and a coming senior center…right next to I-5?

    Aside from the irony, what will be the effects on the development if more studies confirm the direct health effects of living near freeways. Residential development in the area may become a hard sell, especially to the health professionals the area is trying to attract. Does South Waterfront work with the projected levels of employment if those the employees largely commute from outside the area? As I recall, they were relying on that housing to reduce transportation demands.

  6. I suggest taking a walk along the highway. Not only do you smell the air pollution, but the sound pollution is soul deadening. If you want to try something facinating, walk powell blvd and pay attention to the two blocks on either side of the road. Its an amazing site, as the sound of the large road lessons the state of the neighborhood increases. The blocks right along the road consistantly show signs of blight. Its shocking to see in person and sad that we’ve given so much up for person mobility.

  7. If the health effects of I-5 were taken seriously, the CRC project would be dead, and all our effort would go into reducing trips not adding auto trips in the corridor.
    Housing prices adjacent to freeways and major arterials tell you what people (market) think about that option.

  8. Its an amazing site, as the sound of the large road lessons the state of the neighborhood increases.

    While that is true, I am not sure the size of the road or traffic is entirely responsible. Some of it is that people prefer not to live next to commercial development. There is a lot of traffic on Belmont and Hawthorne, but you don’t really see that effect. On the other hand, it is true along Burnside where there is commercial development but not in neighborhoods like Laurelhurst where there isn’t.

  9. Hude difference between Hawthorn/Belmont and Powell. Retail on both those smaller roads shield the neighborhood and are an asset to the community. On Powell the auto base retail and large parking lots open up the site and sound lines to the rather large autocentric road. Point is for those advocating road expansion, WALK the neighborhoods along large roads to see what road expansion has done to neighborhoods. Morally I just don’t know how we can continue to destory these places for the single purpose of suburban mobility.

  10. On Powell the auto base retail and large parking lots open up the site and sound lines to the rather large autocentric road.

    That was my point. It is not just the size of the road, but the type of development along it. But I think it is important to realize that the health effects may have nothing to do with the type of development. The studies I am aware of have looked at freeways, but the health impacts extend well beyond the aesthetic impacts.

  11. I used to live in an apartment in the triangle between Powell, Foster, and 52nd, and there was a noticable amount of black grit whenever we cleaned. The transit access was great, but we definitely left before we had a kid.

  12. HEALTH CONCERNS? Give me a break! This is just another attempt for them to justify their dumb mass-transit ideas. What happens to all the people who’s health are degraded when additional coal plants are fired up for the electricity generation that the MAX uses? I don’t see MAX bragging that they use clean energy and the electric companies have big lobbies so they can sell electricity for MAX and streetcars resulting more carbon pollution! A classic case of NIMBYISM. All the while the Measure 37 developments are being derided. Maybe people don’t WANT to live in the overcrowded city smelling the polution and being forced to ride the toy trains. I certainly don’t any more. I loved living in Yamhill County. I am making plans to move back as soon as possible. Portland is overrated.

  13. I always say. Take a walk by the interstate (it is illegal, but hell with it, do it anyway).

    Now take a walk beside any rail line in the area. They all have decent traffic and you’ll get some racket there too.

    But there is a MAJOR DIFFERENCE. Take a deep deep breath every few minutes by the interstate. You’ll smell it, see it after a while, and start feeling it. You’re getting sick.

    Stand by a rail line with intense traffic (say the 4 -track mainline out of the Powder River Basin with the equivalent throughput of about 6 interstate lanes of nothing but 18 wheelers.) You’ll smell a little diesel, you’ll smell lots of clean fresh air. You won’t feel sick.

    Interstates especially, and to some degree anything more than 1-2 lanes each way, is sickening. Why do so many avoid Burnside? Same reason. Why do Interstates usually depreciate value and force massive sprawling growth. Because people don’t want next to them. Why are the condos facing the interstate less than the ones facing the river? Because people don’t want to see it.

    Even those pro-road people, they usually don’t want to see it, hear it, breath it, or face the consequences of the roadways…

    …but the consequences are there.

    Another point of research… and this point I bring up might even be controversial. Study New Orleans before the interstates, then after. Attempt to calculate the value of houses, greenspace, and other displaced peoples in New Orleans by the Interstates.

    Then study the before and after of Katrina. Values are increasing after a natural disaster slowly but steadily. The interstates however caused a flood of monies to leave downtown, forcing the city into almost a continuous state of subsidy need from the feds.

    Strange how we view the more destructive as a boon, and the least destructive hint from nature as the destructive.

    …us humans, so odd, so illogical sometimes.

  14. “Even those pro-road people, they usually don’t want to see it, hear it, breath it, or face the consequences of the roadways…”

    So why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and quit buying products that these evil trucks and cars transport to your local market. See how far THAT gets you. The goods certainly don’t arrive via Streetcar!

  15. “Bye Greg, enjoy the Dundee bypass! :)”

    I already have my own bypass, it’s called 47 or Wheatland Ferry. Thanks to the Measure 37 development I am going to be living on, I can live out in the rural area on a 5 acre lot and even with $5 a gallon gas it will be cheaper for me to commute AND I get the benefit of living out in the country. What do I get here? Congestion, homeless people, toy trains and concrete as far as the eye can see, cars honking and sirens all day and night long, and did I mention a sewage filled river! Call this livable? I call it idiocy. We humans were never meant to live under densification mandates. What if a disaster were to strike, like a 9/11 style attack or nuclear weapon? More densely packed urban cores = more deaths at once.

  16. Don’t worry Greg, now that you got your Measure 37 your area will fill up quickly with housing and traffic. It won’t be too long before you yourself become a NIMBY, yelling about subsidized road widening projects that degrade your livibility. It’s just a shame that the rest of us have to wait on you to finally understand the viscious cycle.

  17. I-5 itself should not be blamed. North Portland has several socially engineered demonstration projects designed to create congestion that negatively affect air quality, and therefore social engineering should take the blame

    Reducing Interstate Avenue from four lanes to two lanes when Max was constructed is one of them. Over all, the existing project was evaluated as air quality neutral. However, right along the Interstate Avenue right-of-way, air quality was negatively impacted by the reduction of lanes. According to a friend of mine who is a Max operator that has afternoon and evening shift on Interstate, evening rush hour on the street often operates more like a parking lot (but with engines idling). Max could have been constructed with four lanes retained, and what I supported at the time. . .

    Another demonstration project is the northbound freeway HOV lane that creates considerably more stop and go congestion in the two other northbound lanes, thereby also having a negative impact on air quality. Because of the increased engine idling time while waiting to get on a freeway that is deficient of demand., ramp metering too has a negative impact on air quality,

    However the real culprit is density. There are just too many people attempting to get in, out or through a far too compacted area. For proof of that point, you do not see the same kinds of health problems that people attempt to be blame on freeways in the suburbs. Furthermore, freeways in the suburbs for the most part flow better. One exception is Highway 217 because it does not have enough capacity.

    Although transit is reliable going to and from downtown, and a few blocks off the lines in between, most jobs are not located downtown or at light rail stations, and therefore transit alternatives do not meet the needs of the majority of people going to and from their places of employment and elsewhere.

    A realistic solution to meet the majority of transport needs is to make freeways flow better by eliminating the bottlenecks, and in some cases, increasing vehicle capacity to meet demand. A motor vehicle running at a constant speed runs clean as compared to stop and go driving with a lot of engine idle time.

    Another opportunity to make our roadways more free flowing would be to make sure that all employment center nodes have multiple vehicle entrances and exits. In the I-5 corridor, the third bridge (over the Columbia) and alignment concept offers this type of an opportunity for the North Portland Peninsula, In addition, this concept would increase roadway capacity while at the same time spreading that capacity out and not concentrating it in one compacted area and right-of-way. Another example that has only one entrance and exit is Swan Island. Most of the freight and motor vehicle traffic on and off Swan Island is traveling to and from I-5 via Going and Greeley. Adding another connection to the this employment node, say a direct connection to Highway 30 on the westside of the Willamette River, would help I-5 through North Portland flow better with less stop and go traffic.

    The current mindset by some political forces to ration highway capacity, and ignore true demand will only create more congestion, create more stop and go traffic, and possibly create gridlock. Not only does such thinking have a negative impact on air quality, but also a negative impact on the regional economy.

  18. “It’s just a shame that the rest of us have to wait on you to finally understand the viscious cycle.”

    I am moving onto a Donation Land Claim that’s been in my family for 7 generations. Bye Bye Portland and all your imports from California, New York and Massachusetts and backwards “progressive” thinking. Maybe I’ll start growing organic produce to sell to the masses who ride the toy trains and get to hear sirens, loud buses and deal with MAX crashes. I am going back to MY livable community while you guys live in your overpriced slum.

    Most of the rural landowners don’t WANT their properties to be turned into cement prisons like the urban folks do. The truly “greedy developers” are the ones pushing this densitication scam – what I call concrete prisons for the masses to live in and then force them to pay lots of money to traipse around in the rural environs. I am so glad that Measure 37 remains and that the nefarious politicans are completely powerless in overturning it. People out in the country want to have their horses, their “LOCALLY” grown food (i.e. on their own property instead of a 5×5 piece of “ground” on a Pearl Condo), have animals, etc. It’s definitely a better alternative to this idiocy.

  19. Greg –

    I’ll reserve any personal comments about your posting style, but just how many times are you going to say “goodbye” (literally) and yet keep posting here?

    – Bob R.

  20. “just how many times are you going to say “goodbye” (literally) and yet keep posting here?”

    I’ll quit once I’ve actually MOVED to my new place. The house is almost built. You can hear the crickets and tree frogs at night and the occasional fish jumping out of the water on the lake. No more cars honking, polluting buses and vagrants walking around. The only crime out in that area is the occasional instance of the neighbor’s cow getting out and ruining my yard. I’ll take that any day over getting stabbed or harassed by a vagrant.

  21. Lets get back to the real subject and that is not about Greg having a better if in the country, it is about our transportation planning folks not addressing congestion in the I-5 corridor and allowing conditions that are killing people.

    You do not have to be behind a truck or bus or one of some type of rig that is spewing out lots of exhaust and gag on it and not know that emissions coming from motor vehicles is not good for your health.

    We also have to know that the I-5 corridor at 2 and 3-lanes is inadequate for the amount of traffic that needs to use it.

    You also have to know that if teh CRC Task Force gets their way and builds a very big and wide new replacement Interstate Bridge it will induce more vehicles into the I-5 Corridor.

    If the I-5 corridor is not expanded we will have greater congestion which means more emissions and that means killing more people. But it is a slow death that happen over time, so the politicans and transportation planners can blame someone else.

    We also know that Light Rail into Vancouver Washington will not reduce or eliminate any more then about 2% of the vehicles out of the I-5 corridor. This means that our politicans and transportation planners do not care about how many people they kill because they have cover in that they are doing what is politically correct.

    They do not care whether it works it is PC.

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