At the behest of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, Gov. Jay Inslee has assured Washington legislators that the Evergreen State will have a seat at the table when Oregon begins discussing tolls. Herrera Beutler has led the charge against tolling Interstate 5 and 205, a potential revenue stream as outlined in Oregon’s $5.3 billion transportation plan.
Herrera Beutler proposed an amendment to a federal spending package that would prevent funds from the bill being used to either establish or collect tolls on I-5 or I-205. That amendment passed the U.S. House of Representatives and now sits before the U.S. Senate.
Herrera Beutler also sent a letter to Inslee on Sept. 12, signed by nine Republican state lawmakers, demanding the governor take “an active role in opposing Oregon’s transportation plan that calls for imposing tolls on I-5 and I-205 at the state line.”
On Sept. 15, Inslee sent a response to Herrera Beutler and the nine lawmakers.
“We have received no indication that Oregon plans to establish tolls on the state line between Washington and Oregon,” Inslee wrote. “Moreover, Washington state and the Federal Highway Administration will be integrally involved in any decisions before they move forward.”
Inslee said he has instructed the Washington State Department of Transportation to work with the Oregon Department of Transportation on the issue. The governor has appointed Kris Strickler, WSDOT’s Southwest regional administrator, to represent Washington as tolling conversations continue.
Herrera Beutler is unconvinced.
“While I’m grateful that our governor is giving attention to this issue that stands to negatively impact residents of Washington state, it’s hard to understand how he can say he’s received ‘no indication’ that Oregon plans to establish tolls on the state line given that Oregon passed a law this year allowing for that very situation,” she said. “What other indication does the governor need?”
The bill creates a transportation commission to seek approval from the Federal Highway Administration by Dec. 31, 2018, to put tolls on I-205 and I-5 beginning at the state line and ending where the two connect near Tualatin, Ore.