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Oregon House bill would prohibit tolling on I-205

Posted by on January 11th, 2021 at 2:20 pm

(Source: ODOT)

A group of seven lawmakers want to rewrite existing law and prevent the Oregon Department of Transportation from establishing a tolling system on Interstate 205, unless all the funds to go widening the freeway.

When the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2017 (“Keep Oregon Moving”) in 2017 they directed the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC, the advisory body the oversees the Oregon Department of Transportation) to create a tolling program and implement it on I-5 and I-205. Now several years into the project, lawmakers want to put an end to it. House Bill 2629 would expressly prohibit the OTC from tolling I-205, “unless the toll is used to pay for construction of additional lanes.”

ODOT is mandated by HB 2017 that any funds raised through tolling must go into a Congestion Relief Fund; but that fund isn’t limited to adding lanes on freeways. The Oregon Constitution says revenues from motor vehicle taxes and fees are to be spent on “roadway” projects which can legally include not just highway and driving projects, but infrastructure for bicycling, walking, or transit service.

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The bill is sponsored by six republicans and one democrat: Rep. Christine Drazan (R – Canby); Rep. Daniel Bonham (R – The Dalles); Rep. Mark Meek (D – Clackamas County); Rep. Mike Nearman (R – Independence); Rep. Bill Post (R – Keizer); Rep. E. Werner Reschke (R – Klamath Falls); and Rep. Jack Zika (R – Redmond).

ODOT wrapped up a major public comment period on the I-205 tolling project in mid-December of 2020 that found, “A majority of respondents across all demographic groups expressed strong opposition.” In a statement from the agency, Toll Program Director Lucinda Broussard said, “Clearly there is more work to do. The comments we received from the community demonstrate the confusion around this type of tolling, which makes sense considering this has never been done before in Oregon.”

Following the release the public opinion report, outgoing Gladstone City Councilor Neal Reisner wrote an op-ed in the Portland Tribune where he urged people to contact legislators and tell them to stop the I-205 tolling project. He claimed ODOT has a, “spending problem, not a revenue problem” and that tolling is a, “scheme to force people out of their cars and into public transportation”.

Barring the passage of this bill (which is unlikely given the strong Democratic majority in the legislature), ODOT is set to make a decision on which tolling alternative to implement and finish the federal environmental analysis process in 2022. If all goes according to plan the system should be collecting tolls by 2026. Learn more on ODOT’s website.

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

Given how conservative Oregon Democrats are on highway policy (i.e, Rose Quarter expansion, raising speed limits to 75), I’d say there is a very high probability of a statewide toll ban like other states have done, during the next legislative session.

Jason Start
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The rule of thumb is you add tolling when you add a new toll road or toll bridge. The logic being; citizens will accept a toll road or a toll bridge over no road or no bridge. But, add tolls to existing infrastructure? Good luck with that…

BikeSlobPDX
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BikeSlobPDX

Maybe if it were called a “premium subscription” (for reduced congestion)?

9watts
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The reason we have cigarette taxes is not because we first polled smokers about how they felt about his idea, but because we understand that exacting a financial penalty for engaging in actions that have harmful societal effects is smart: it discourages the behavior and raises funds with which to counteract those harms.
Arthur Pigou figured this out one hundred years ago. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigovian_tax

Campbell Sadeghy
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Campbell Sadeghy

Good! Hopefully Oregon bans toll roads completely!

You know who...
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You know who...

Bwahaha… everybody wants to toll I-5 which is another form of bias and racism. If you only toll I-5, everybody will drive on 205 and more congestion. Toll the whole network or nothing at all is equity. Ask the red house occupiers maybe consider occupying the ramps I5->//Skidmore to Rosa Parks// Shut those ramps down and you will get rid of congestion. ❤️

was carless
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was carless

Most of these lawmakers don’t live anywhere near Portland, and Mike Nearman is a criminal.

JR
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JR

Did someone seriously spend money polling people on whether they’d be willing pay tolls, even for congestion management? Other than policy wonks who’ve studied it, I doubt the idea floats anyone’s boat. I think it’s the only way this region solves congestion, provided the revenue goes toward transportation equity with regard to transportation mode and income.

Teddy
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Teddy

Well right now do not feel safe taking public transit due to the pandemic so I sometimes use I-205 to get to work. Hopefully next year public transit will be safe to take again.

I say don’t bother with more lanes and I don’t want there to be a toll road. If I-205 is tolled looks like I’ll take surface streets when getting tacos from Rigobertos or find some other place. Newberg and Wilsonville have some decent choices.