A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

ODOT’s priorities don’t include highways

Written August 19th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

Seen across Airport Road in Albany on Aug. 13, traffic crawls south on I-5.

If you wonder why our highway problems in Oregon don’t seem to get solved faster, one reason may be that the Department of Transportation has an “action plan” and what the action plan says.

The main problem is congestion, not just in the Portland area but down this way in the Willamette Valley as well. Last Friday, I turned on Airport Road from the parking lot at Kohl’s and was amazed at how slowly traffic was moving on the freeway across the road:

In an email, ODOT has just called attention to its “Strategic Action Plan.” The agency describes the plan as “a three-year road map designed to accelerate change toward specific outcomes that address Oregon’s most significant transportation challenges.”

So what is the top priority among the outcomes on the list?

Number 1 is to “increase our workforce diversity.” The “metric” for this outcome is to “materially increase the hiring and retention of minorities, women, and people who live with disabilities at all levels of the organization” by the end of 2023. (As a so-called metric, “materially increase” sounds a little vague.)

Number 2 on ODOT’s list of priorities is to “implement a social equity engagement toolkit.” Number 3 is to “reduce our carbon footprint.”

In other words, the top three priorities of the state transportation agency don’t have any direct bearing on improving the efficiency or capacity of our system of state roads.

After that, the department wants to triple the number of electric vehicles on the road, and do more to encourage walking, biking and the use of public transit.

Further down on the list are reducing congestion in the Portland region, awarding more contracts to businesses owned by other than white men; encouraging “transformative technologies,” implementing a system of charging drivers by the mile (a program that lost steam in the last few years); and otherwise working on funding.

So that’s the plan. Unless something changes, don’t expect road trips to become faster or less aggravating in the years to come. (hh)

16 responses to “ODOT’s priorities don’t include highways”

  1. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “Unless something changes, don’t expect road trips to become faster or less aggravating in the years to come.”

    And in addition to our population increasing, we’re also in the “queue” with all other communities across the state competing for the limited ODOT resources available to fund infrastructure. We can’t even pass a *miniscule* gas tax, yet we like to whine about congestion. Go figure…

    • Mark says:

      Gas tax not needed vehicle tax to cover all vehicles gas,electric and so on. Why should the answer always be a gas tax. Why not just tax people the same tax amount or more for electric vehicles as the gasoline vehicles. Where is all the money that the dmv fees was supposed to raise ???. Or all the millions of dollars oregon lottery was supposed to raise for Oregon???

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    ODOT’s priorities do include highways.

    For example, ODOT and WSDOT are investing $50 million to revive the Columbia River Crossing project which shut down in 2014 after wasting $200 million.

    The new, improved project will be called the Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR) program.

    The project staff will be diverse and the project itself is committed to “centering equity in our processes and our outcomes.”

    Listening sessions in August are scheduled for the following communities: older adults, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Somali.


  3. thomas cordier says:

    Looks like ODOT has bought the WOKE agenda just like the DoD and public education.
    I did not vote for current failed POTUS—how’s that working out for those who did.
    When it comes time to dispose of all the evbatteries the number superfund sites will explode

  4. Bill Higby says:

    Hasso, my Son just turned 41. Back when he was just a dream ODOT started on a reconstruction of I-5 in Salem scheduled to be completed in 20 years. Construction has never stopped and congestion is just as bad now as it was 40 years ago. Ya think that government has it figured out yet? 20 years ago a friend in the construction business told me that a freeway cost a million dollars a mile, what does it cost now?

    I have no idea what the solution is, I favor improving the rail system, but I am sure that your followers have much ideas…

  5. Jake (JJ) Johnny Johan Hartman says:

    You can’t blame ODOT for prioritizing diversity. Once you look out onto the stalled lanes of I-5, you begin to understand how badly ODOT’s traditionally white/male management and labor force have befouled the roadway system in Oregon, it only makes sense to try something different. You’ve already tried one way. It makes sense to try something different given how badly the ODOT White, male-dominated have performed. Einstein once noted, ““Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Einstein was a White male in a business dominated by white males and even he understood the depravity of not being inclusive.

  6. H. R. Richner says:

    It’s high time to change to rational management in Salem, and the color of skin has nothing to do with it. Blaming low gasoline taxes for the fiasco is hardly relevant when ODOT wastes the its present budget on such creepy nonsense.

  7. farmer says:

    White, brown, black, yellow, male, or female brains are not the problem. If you think so, you are coming from the wrong premise. The lack of proper planning is not due to “white males” or lack of diversity at ODOT. The poor planning comes from the top elected (and their appointees) officials who restrict sound planning due to their faulty thinking and “political” agenda. IF it were a black, brown, yellow or female or any other “diverse” planner, the same poor planning would continue because the top-down pressure from those above them. As long as we elect ill-qualified Governors and Mayors, expect the same poor planning of infrastructure and all other public functions.

  8. thomas earl cordier says:

    To JJ doing something different is a welcome change. Those of color blaming Whites
    for traffic issues fits the mantra of the uneducated
    To HRR –it is irrational mgt in Salem and getting worse

  9. Dala Rouse says:

    Most Fridays the traffic is like that going south and than look at Sundays traffic going north. It is like that almost every week. This isn’t new but going on for long time.

  10. Carmen says:

    If you drive a gasoline car you’re complicit in this.
    How many of you own more than one car?
    How many of you have more than two cars in your household?
    How often do you drive on the freeway with more passengers than just yourself?
    How often do you take alternative modes of transportation (train, bus, bike, rideshare, etc…)
    How often do you plan your car trips with mileage efficiency and minimizing gasoline use in mind?
    Has MPG ever been a top purchase point in a car purchase?

  11. jay says:

    I know i know i know we’re are not Portland and never will we be or want to be. However this video of why doing more of the same just doesn’t work for transportation.

    We could spend millions and millions more but wed end up right back where we started with more cars than road space. Congestion is a harder problem to solve than you would think with people expecting to the ‘freedom’ to be stuck in traffic in there SUV.

  12. Jeffrey Cooper says:

    The top priorities for odot fall under fraud, waste and abuse. They need to focus on fixing roads, after all that is their mandate.


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