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Saltzman wants congestion pricing of I-5 before widening project starts

Posted by on September 1st, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Include congestion/value pricing before the project breaks ground to ensure maxim congestion relief and overall environmental benefits.
— from a statement drafted by Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s office

Will the City of Portland sit idly by and allow new lanes to be added to a freeway in the urban core? Not if the commissioner in charge of the transportation bureau has his way.

Prior to a public hearing on the Central City 2035 Plan slated for Thursday (September 7th), City Commissioner Dan Saltzman will issue a statement about the Interstate 5/Rose Quarter freeway project. According to his Senior Policy Director Matt Grumm, Saltzman has been watching the dialogue on the project unfold over the past week. Among the work they’ve done to understand the issue is to meet with leaders of the No More Freeway Expansions coalition — which includes Joe Cortright, an economist and expert on congestion pricing.

While Grumm hasn’t said Saltzman will agree to remove the freeway project from the Transportation System Plan (as No More Freeways wants), he will do something that many feel is just as important: Require congestion pricing before the tractors roll in and construction starts on the new lanes.

Here’s a snip of an early draft of the statement Saltzman’s office is working on:

Include congestion/value pricing before the project breaks ground to ensure maximum congestion relief and overall environmental benefits

Congestion/Value pricing is a proven congestion and carbon reduction strategy and it is an essential part of the project. The recently passed HB 2017 – the state transportation funding package – mandates that value pricing be implemented as part of the I-5 Broadway/Weidler Interchange project. Not only can value pricing relieve congestion and help our region lead on climate, but it can be implemented with social equity as a founding principle. Congestion/Value pricing can help bring improved mobility and pricing solutions to those traveling through the corridor. We are working closely with the state of Oregon and multiple regional partners to evaluate how to ensure this tool brings the most benefits to our city and state.

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Many local electeds, insiders and transportation policy leaders are saying that the time has come for Portland to try congestion pricing. And given the politics and context of this I-5 project, it could be a great opportunity to implement a pricing pilot project. Cortright is a strong believer that congestion pricing should happen before any shovels hit the ground on I-5 at the Rose Quarter. He points to examples in other cities where lanes were added before tolling was implemented only to see traffic — and with it, the need for the infrastructure — drop significantly.

ODOT has been issued a mandate by House Bill 2017 to come up with a “value pricing” program by next year. Skeptics recall that the 2009 transportation bill also called for a pricing program, yet it never moved forward. But this time around might be different. In a sign of their seriousness, the agency posted three new jobs just week: a “value pricing study manager“, a “value pricing project coordinator” and a “community engagement coordinator.”

Saltzman’s statement is stronger regarding the need for congestion pricing than a statement made this week by The Street Trust. While Saltzman clearly calls for “pricing before the project breaks ground,” The Street Trust said, “the project must include congestion pricing”.

If City Council is looking for a way to respond to community concerns about the I-5 project but doesn’t want to take the relatively bold action of removing it from the TSP , voting for a local ordinance that requires pricing before construction could be a politically prudent compromise.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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random

Woot!

Time to get the peasants off the freeways, leaving them clear for their social betters!

Go tolls!

Ed
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Ed

Need to have a plan for the roads where traffic is going to divert to like Interstate, Williams and MLK.

J_R
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J_R

The devil is in the details. While I generally support congestion pricing, I am concerned about the unintended consequences of it. Impact on the poor, diversion to local streets, relocation of suppliers and jobs to suburban areas more distant from toll roads (making those jobs less accessible for bicyclists and transit riders), and a few other things come to mind.

Saltzman’s “line in the sand” at this early stage does not inspire my confidence in getting it done right. Congestion pricing is complicated.

Dave
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Dave

Congestion pricing might work better in a city with a more firmly defined center and lacking the suburban escape routes that businesses might have. It needs a captive audience, in other words.

Evan
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Evan

This is awesome. Let’s make sure the pricing scheme is helpful and equitable!

Mike Sanders
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Mike Sanders

One well known design has toll lanes using the EZ Pass system (very popular in the East & Midwest; Texas has something similar called TX Tag) running on the inside lanes with only a handful of exits, while the mainline carries the thru traffic to all the local exits. Well known examples include I-10 in Los Angeles and Houston, the Dulles Airport connector outside Washington, DC (inside toll lanes go to the airport only, no local exits, while outside free lanes bypass the airport and continue into the far western MD suburbs) and I-80 leaving NYC. Los Angeles has HOV lanes on several freeways designed much the same way.

SD
Guest
SD

This is great. Measures that limit the SOV burden, generate revenue and mitigate pollution in the urban center are beneficial for everyone, especially people of lower SES. Next step, real investments in SOV alternatives.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

The worry about the effect of tolls on the poor is old history. In the last 40 years of decreasing working class wages, increasing costs of living and the skyrocketing costs of automobile ownership the poor ,for all practical purposes ,have been priced out of commuting in cars.Only a draconian ,robbing of peter to pay paul, keeps this going. Unless we change something within our neoliberal economic system, it will soon be impossible to ignore that automobile transportation is not cost effective for the lower earning 50% of american society.There is no possible way that private car ownership will become cheaper in the future so we must focus on sensible real estate development policy, rent control legislation, and improved mass transit. The costs of owning and driving cars is increasingly out of reach for many of us and will be much more so in the near future. Lets either have an economic revolution or build a european quality mass transit and bike transportation system and stop reliving the 1950’s. Congestion tolling will help provide the revenue to move in to the real future we have ahead of us.

encephalopath
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encephalopath

Congestion pricing is the ONLY solution to traffic congestion. Building capacity certainly isn’t going to fix the problem as is demonstrated over and over.

Raise the price until the congestion disappears and use the revenue to subsidize the hell out of public transit for the people you price out of the bottom end of the market. Once you get rid of the congestion, the public transit is going to get everyone to their destination faster than if congestion were still happening. And the people you priced out of driving aren’t being forced to own and maintain a car.

rick
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rick

Spend the money and resources elsewhere besides I-5. Yes, it needs a cap over it but ODOT needs to rebuild the urban orphan highways. Hall Blvd is crumbling apart.

Chris Smith
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Chris Smith

Does this mean “include” congestion pricing in the project, or precede any construction with congestion pricing? There’s a world of difference! Language is not clear to me.

Stephen Keller
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Stephen Keller

Where will it kick in? At the bridge or at the rose quarter? If it is at the rose quarter, then I predict life in St. Johns is going to suffer.

John Liu
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John Liu

I think that tolling / congestion pricing / whatever you call it will have to be at a natural boundary, or there will be unstoppable cut-throughs on local streets to bypass the controls.

Beeblebrox mentioned technology that uses license plate scanners to enforce congestion pricing without requiring traffic to pass through physical toolbooths. London uses that sort of technology. But there are legal and jurisdictional issues here that don’t exist in London, because Portland is at the border of two states. Who knows if Washington will enforce a Oregon congestion zone ticket. I don’t think the two states enforce each other’s parking tickets.

So, put the north edge of the zone at the Columbia River. Put the south edge somewhere far enough south that there aren’t a lot of cut through alternatives, but where there actually is bad I-5 congestion.

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

I continue to shake my head at you people who want to create a congestion charge to reduce driving, AND an exemption to encourage driving.

So we have anti-car and wealth redistribution wrapped with a neat little bow.

It’s a shame that this will cost Saltzman the election because his challengers are going to be even worse for the city.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I’m realizing that we may not be all talking about the same thing.

When we (each of us) is talking about tolls/congestion pricing, are we thinking this would be for driving 1) on just the freeways, or 2) on both freeways and on surface streets?

And are we talking about charging for A) driving a car through the boundary of a specified zone (classic tollbooth model) or for B) driving a car anywhere within a specified zone (high tech license plate scanner model)?

Charley
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Charley

I’m so glad to see Commissioner Saltzman step up like this. I am really impressed with the intelligence and courage he’s displayed. Bravo.

Kittens
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Kittens

I’m very skeptical of congestion pricing.

Granted, I’ve never lived in a city that had such a scheme. But it generally sets off alarms in my head as being un-democratic and simply a continuation of the hollowing out of what it means to pay taxes. We now have user fees for everything from libraries to state parks and transit to parking spots. The way our society (at least in therory) is supposed to function is that everyone pays taxes for things we all use and benefit from. This is not a private toll road or bridge authority. This sort of reminds me of the republican plan to cap social security based on income. So what happens when certain classes of people no longer participate in a system which relies on universal buy-in?

Like it or not this scheme chips another bit off the block.

It will not end well.

Justin
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Justin

Can we please talk about something else? Isn’t someone installing a bike lane somewhere or something? Or the bumpy pavement on the south waterfront trail through John’s Landing? ¡Que lástima! Can we take maybe two days off the highway widening, just long enough to rest our brains for a minute?

SE
Guest
SE

Isn’t I-5 a Federal hiway ?

IF so, then how does PDX city council enact fees on it ?

q
Guest
q

It’s a huge subject–you could write a book about who gets billed for using roads and–maybe more importantly–to whom the money collected should be directed.

And if you did write that book, it could be called For Whom the Toll Bills.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

A. Isn’t congestion a form of congestion pricing?
B. Why does it need to be ‘solved’?
C. Why not just stop spending money on car space, except to maintain, add safety, or reallocate, and shift to spending money on alternative forms of transport?