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Portland Suburb: To Fight Climate Change, Expand Highways!

11:45 AM EDT on October 31, 2014

Is more of this the way to beat congestion in the Portland region? Photo: Bike Portland
Is more of this the way to reduce carbon emissions in the Portland region? Photo: Bike Portland
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Clackamas County, outside of Portland, has some opinions about the region's plan to address climate change. According to Michael Andersen at Bike Portland, county commissioners have drafted a letter to regional planners saying the right way to control carbon emissions is to build more highways.

Scratching your head? Well, the misguided belief that building more roads reduces congestion, and thus emissions, is still deeply entrenched in American transportation bureaucracies.

Clackamas County wants more roads to be included in the climate plan from Metro, Portland's regional planning agency. But get this -- Metro's plan already has a lot of road work in the name of reducing emissions, Andersen reports:

Metro’s draft version of that plan (PDF) calls for the region to dedicate 58 percent of related funding over the next 20 years -- about $20 billion -- to roads, even though the report says that “adding lane miles to relieve congestion … will not solve congestion on its own.”

Metro’s draft plan calls for $12.4 billion to be spent on transit, which it rates as enough to achieve a 16 to 20 percent cut in per-capita carbon emissions. The plan calls for $2 billion to go to improving biking and walking, which it rates as enough for a 3 to 6 percent reduction.

But most of the money identified as part of Metro’s climate plan is slated to go to road improvement or construction, which the plan identifies as reducing greenhouse gases by less than 1 percent. (The report notes that this figure doesn’t include “synergies” with other policies, however.)

Metro estimates that this set of investments would cut regional carbon emissions per person by 29 percent over the next 20 years.

Something tells us Clackamas County's lobbying for even more roads is based on selfishness rather than concern for future generations.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Walk Lee recaps the Diane Rehm Show discussion about bike safety and the new Governor's Highway Safety Association report. The City Fix asks: What if there was no need for cars in the world's largest cities? And Greater Greater Washington says election day will have big consequences for transit in Maryland and Virginia.

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