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ODOT tolling plan off to feds with support from Oregon Transportation Commission

Posted by on December 6th, 2018 at 4:39 pm

On the left, the cover of ODOT’s 48-page application to the FHWA. On the right are the proposed tolling locations.

Before the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) can begin any kind of congestion pricing on existing freeways, they must first submit a proposal to the Federal Highway Administration. At their monthly meeting in Salem today, ODOT’s governing body voted 5-0 in favor of that 48-page plan, marking a major step in the future of tolling in the Portland region.

In a presentation to OTC members by ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer, the two main objectives of the plan were laid out. First, ODOT wants tolling to “create a revenue source to help fund bottleneck relief projects in the corridor.” They list two “priority projects”: widening of I-205 (Abernethy Bridge) between Highway 99 and Stafford Road; and the I-5 Rose Quarter project which will add lanes and shoulders between I-84 and I-405. The second goal is to manage traffic congestion in the I-5 and I-205 corridors.

Specifically, ODOT is asking FHWA for guidance and approval to toll I-205 “on or near the Abernethy Bridge” and I-5 “in the vicinity of N Going/ Alberta St to SW Multnomah Blvd.”

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A policy advisory committee convened by ODOT laid out three additional priorities of the plan:

improved public transportation and other transportation options for equity and mobility; special provisions for environmental justice populations, including low income communities; and strategies to minimize and mitigate negative impacts of diversion.

ODOT needs FHWA approval in order to take the next step in analysis. ODOT says exact tolling boundaries as well as rates still need to be studied. If FHWA supports ODOT’s proposal, the agency would then take a few years to refine the projects, assess environmental impacts and determine costs associated with tolling infrastructure. “Future analysis,” ODOT said in a statement after today’s vote, “will also focus on concerns raised frequently during the feasibility analysis phase of the project, including understanding equity impacts, needed improvements to mass transit services and other travel options and minimizing diversion impacts to neighborhood streets.”

A timeline shared by ODOT today puts tolling in place by 2024 if all goes according to plan.

Among the things we’re tracking with this plan is what type of projects will be eligible for funding with tolling revenue, whether ODOT is going far enough to meet Oregon’s greenhouse gas emission targets, and how tolling might impact neighborhood streets.

Learn more about ODOT’s work on congestion pricing here and read download a PDF of their application to the FHWA here. (The “Reason Statement” begins on page 19).

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

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Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

I love hearing the “I paid my fair share” statements from drivers who cannot comprehend that only about 40% of ODOT budget is from gas tax and registrations.

PDXCyclist
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PDXCyclist

I am for tolling, but I’m also worried Barbur will just become I-5-lite. London does de-congestion pricing as an entire toll zone, not only on their equivalent of the interstate. If we do tolling, I think it should be an entire ring into core Portland.

Given that we generally accept drivers believe “war on motorists,” and that they don’t understand how roads are not properly funded from the gas tax, it seems silly to think they would accept the toll at face value and not try to avoid it.

Asher Atkinson
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Asher Atkinson

I don’t understand why it would take up until 2024 to put tolls in place. Assuming the FHWA supports the proposal, put it in place ASAP and see if the other big ticket projects, like the Rose Quarter widening, are even needed after tolling has a chance to change traffic patterns. I may be mistaken, but doesn’t this just involve granting a concession to a private company who installs the cameras and manages the billing? Sure, it will take some time, but five years seems slow for a such a modest plan.

Nathan
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Nathan

Do any of the plans have High Occupancy Vehicle HOV/toll lane combos as an option? Making it faster for buses to travel and people willing to carpool is such a noibrainer that most cities combine with their tolling strategies. Is that on the table for any of these plans? Portland is very unique in the country for having almost no HOV lanes. Can one lane of each bridge into downtown also become and HOV lane. People might actually take the bus. I think the Central City In Motion Plans have spoken to these possibilities. How is HOV not even in Portlanders’ lexicon?

Mike Quigley
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Mike Quigley

Congestion pricing so they can build more freeway that will result in more congestion. Maybe it’s best to let the whole system be. Let it collapse, then see what rises out of the ashes. Hopefully, the Big One will do away with the whole congestion problem for a long, long time?

laura
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laura

Around the time that the Seattle metro area decided to go big on HOV lanes (after repeated rail ballot issues failed), the Portland area decided the opposite. (late 70’s/early 80’s) They would forego HOV lanes in favor of the MAX system. The only on-freeway HOV lane is the useless stretch in north Portland that is leftover from the 1997 Trunnion project mitigation.

With Lynn Peterson leading Metro,and her experience at WSDOT and HOV/HOT lanes, maybe the philosophy will change.

Johnny Bye Carter
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Johnny Bye Carter

Main objectives: (1) Add more lanes for traffic. (2) Try to figure out how to control all the traffic congestion we’ve just created.

Great job there ODOT.

Typical politics. Present something people want (control of traffic congestion) and add a rider on there that nobody wants (more lanes of congested traffic on the freeway).

Of course the highway department will approve this; it adds more traffic and continues the dominance of car culture. It’s all they know how to do.

Johnny Bye Carter
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Johnny Bye Carter

With the amount of money they spend putting more cars idling on the freeway they could build MAX to every metro city and run the entire system fare-free.

JF
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JF

2024? Assuming this gets done on time, that means I only need to deal with for 4 years before I can retire and get the heck out of Portland. Not bad.

soren
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soren

“First, ODOT wants tolling to “create a revenue source to help fund bottleneck relief projects in the corridor.”

So this is proposal is focused on funding highway expansion and making it easier to drive, not supporting alternatives. If so, this proposal is a huge step in the wrong direction.

Stephen Keller
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Stephen Keller

Sigh, this plan is just going to shunt more traffic into the neighborhoods. If ODOT wants to reduce congestion, it should toll I-5 and I-205 all the way from Columbia crossings down to Wilsonville.

Andrew
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Andrew

Let’s not forget why car culture and auto dominance is even a thing: poor urban planning generations ago that sought to separate land uses via zoning. This is still a thing and landowners will not take kindly to changing it. Allowing for greater density in existing single family areas will not only help reduce auto dependence, but it will also help with housing costs. Cars suck, but let’s not kid ourselves, those that have been priced out of inner neighborhoods now live in car reliant areas that are difficult and/or expensive to effectively serve with transit and cycling infrastructure. They’re going to be the ones hardest hit by tolls.

nuovorecord
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nuovorecord

Compared to the political aspects of tolling, the technology is relatively simple. Yes, it’s complex, but not as complex as the politics.

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

I wish we could toll exits into downtown, rather than the entire freeway. Those traveling from Vancouver to Salem, IMO, are using the freeway for it’s intended purpose to pass through the city without clogging the grid, and that use should not be tolled. Those using the freeway to travel short distances into town—especially if there is a transit alternative—are the ones who need to think twice about whether there is another option besides driving. As was mentioned in another comment, Portland should consider London’s example of a congestion zone all around the city core. Exits from 405 and 26 onto downtown surface streets should also be tolled. I don’t know how London does it unless they use GPS on vehicles, but starting with freeway exits would at least be a step in the right direction.

Ken S
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Ken S

That’s a really good idea.
It’s similar to bus lines where you pay when you exit the bus instead of when you get on.

Mark Smith
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Mark Smith

On one hand, ODOT is working overtime to inflict the largest freeway expansion in recent history…but on the other hand, they want to tax traffic around the same around.

So, are those carpool lanes in yet on all freeways in an out of Portland?

Mike Sanders
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Mike Sanders

The debate is starting on a “congestion pricing “ (read: tollway) proposal in Los Angeles on several of their main freeways, including I-5, I-10, and CA-60, and possibly others as well. Keep an eye on that one, as some of the issues being raised here are going to be mentioned down there. They’ve had toll lanes on CA-91 and several tollways built in Orange County in recent years. All of those projects use EZ Pass tag systems like the ones widely used back East. (Those who don’t have EZ Pass are routed off the main line to pay cash at tollbooths; this system is used on the NJ and Garden State Parkways, for example.)

SuperLycraWeenie
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SuperLycraWeenie

The kid in me likes the toll, the adult in me thinks this will encourage more cars to use surface roads.