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High school sophmore Adah Crandall during a Youth Vs. Oregon Department of Transportation rally in Portland, Oregon.

High school sophmore Adah Crandall during a Youth Vs. Oregon Department of Transportation rally in Portland, Oregon.

Photographer: Amanda Lucier/Bloomberg

CityLab
Transportation

The Road Warriors

For months, a group of youthful climate activists have waged a battle to halt a Portland highway expansion — and turn U.S. transportation policy around. 

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Every other Wednesday, 15-year-old Adah Crandall catches the bus from her high school in Northeast Portland to spend the early evening with a group of friends outside the Oregon Department of Transportation’s downtown headquarters.

It’s an after-school activity that Crandall, whose wavy blonde hair runs close to her elbows, wishes the world didn’t require. Since April 2021, she and her crew have been protesting the agency’s plans to widen a slew of highways that could increase CO2 emissions by tens of thousands of tons per year. 

“People don’t think of ODOT as a villain in the climate crisis, but they don’t realize that 40% of our state’s carbon emissions come from transportation, come from the freeways that ODOT is trying to expand,” Crandall told a reporter at a protest in June, where a sidewalk chalked the color of a smoke-filled sky declared: “Oregon Department of Climate Arson.”