Comment of the Week: ODOT and the Robert Moses approach

    Like probably a lot of readers, I had my head in my hands as I waded through last Friday’s post about the funding shortfalls the Oregon Department of Transportation faces with its I-5 Rose Quarter expansion and the I-205 Abernethy Bridge projects.

    What is it about the words millions and billions that befuddle everything?

    But maybe it’s not actually the numbers that cause the confusion, maybe it’s the looking under the cushions for quarters (or billions of quarters) aspect to the story that is so disorienting. In either case, I appreciated the clarity that JaredO’s comment brought to the issue:

    This is the Robert Moses approach.

    Promise the world. Pretend it’s going to be cheap. Lie outright to legislators to fund it. (Bent Flyvbjerg has documented this across the world).

    Get something started, be shocked – shocked! that it costs more than you claimed, then make everyone feel like it would be a waste to stop it.

    Steal money and projects from the least powerful people in a community. Pretend there are no opportunity costs.

    The whole conversation makes me sick.

    As a side note, if we don’t value something enough to pay for it, and are only doing it because the federal government will pay for most of it … we’re making the wrong decisions.

    Perverse incentives from the feds means safety – road maintenance – and transit, walking, and biking projects will be destroyed. ODOT claims safety is their top priority. This is exhibit #1,412,342 on why that’s simply not true.

    It’s time to provide real leadership and avoid sunk-cost fallacy.

    Cancel the projects. Keep the commitments to the Oregonians around the state who need safety and choices. We’ve done it before. Time to do it again.

    Thank you JaredO, I was kind of leaning that way myself, but it sure was nice to have someone else just lay it all out. You can read JaredO’s comment in context under the post.

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