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Monday is last day to visit ODOT’s online congestion pricing open house


Freeway space is both a finite resource and one that comes with many negative externalities. It should cost much more to use.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

For most other services, when demand soars, the price increases. But not with our freeways. Is it time for us to pay more for using our limited road resources?

The Oregon Department of Transportation has started a process that will help them decide if, when, where and how to implement congestion pricing — which they refer to as value pricing.

ODOT is acting on a directive from House Bill 2017 that passed the Oregon Legislature last year. It directs the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC, the governor-appointed body that controls ODOT pursestrings) to seek approval from the Federal Highway Administration by December 2018 to implement pricing on I-5 and I-205. The bill specifically called out the sections of both freeways in the Portland metro region.

At this stage in the process, ODOT is conducting a “feasibility analysis” to determine the best location(s) to implement pricing and what the impact of doing so would be. Late last month they held three open houses around the region and since January 23rd they’ve had an online open house where anyone can learn more about the issue and share their experiences and feedback. That online open house is only open until this Monday, February 5th. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please try and make some time before it’s too late.

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“Eight initial value pricing concepts for preliminary analysis.” Via ODOT

The online open house gives you the opportunity to share your experiences of how congestion has (or hasn’t) impacted you. You’ll also learn about the different methods of pricing under consideration and some of the criteria they’re using to assess the viability of different options.

One option currently under consideration is to use revenue raised through congestion pricing to finance “bottleneck relief projects.” Yes, you read that right, we would use pricing to help pay for more freeway lanes. That seems strange to us given the golden rule of induced demand and the high cost of building and maintaining freeways.

ODOT will share input gleaned from this online open house in their presentation to the OTC. The value pricing project team will also present this feedback at the Value Pricing Policy Advisory Committee meeting on February 28th.

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

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