It gets pretty sleepy around town on a warm, overcast Friday afternoon so I figure now's the time to throw out this controversial but brilliant idea I heard this morning during a meeting on Portland's air quality levels. Portland has 24 times the amount of benzene in its air than the EPA says is okay to breathe. High benzene levels can lead to asthma and lung problems and car traffic is a major contributor to these dangerous benzene levels. So, said N/NE Neighborhood Coalition member Sylvia Evans at the meeting this morning, if the state is going to be building new highway projects that expand traffic capacity and therefore put more benzene into the air, shouldn't they have to put more money into helping people who get sick?
Specifically, Evans pitched the idea of funneling seven percent of the toll on the new CRC bridge into a low-income healthcare fund. "As more trucks and vehicles move through our neighborhood, they should be responsible for the toxins they leave behind," said Evans.
North Portland State Rep Tina Kotek, who attended the meeting, seemed intrigued at the idea. "I will be looking into that idea and asking questions. I think that's totally appropriate," said Kotek. "We want to build dense housing along both sides of the I-5, so what should we do to make that livable?"