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.
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.
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