Since Oregon announced its intent to develop a tolling plan on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205, Gov. Jay Inslee has been relatively silent. He is silent no more.
At a Tuesday event celebrating the completion of the West Vancouver Freight Access Project, Inslee said Southwest Washington’s voice will be heard.
“I have instructed the state Department of Transportation to make sure those voices are heard,” Inslee said. “I can report to you those voices have been heard … and they will be heard to make sure our residents’ interests are protected in any tolling discussion.”
In June, the Portland Region Value Pricing Advisory Committee finalized its recommendation considering tolling in the Portland metro area.
The 25-member committee — of which Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring and WSDOT Southwest Regional Administrator Kris Strickler were members — suggested pursuing Concept B, which would toll all lanes in I-5 between Southwest Multnomah Boulevard and Northeast Going Street. The group also recommended moving forward with Concept E, which would add tolls on I-205 near the Abernathy Bridge and Stafford Road.
Those recommendations were sent to the Oregon Transportation Commission for consideration and approval. The OTC’s decision will be send on to the Federal Highway Administration for final review in December.
Earlier this month, however, the Portland City Council told the OTC they prefer skipping the first phase and moving ahead with tolling all lanes of I-5 and I-205, a proposal known as Concept C. The advisory committee suggested considering a full rollout after testing tolls on a smaller scale to ensure success.
Inslee said Portland’s proposal is “going nowhere.”
“So our work will continue,” he added.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, also attended the celebration at the port on Tuesday and said she’s pleased Inslee is standing up for Southwest Washington commuters.
“I’ve been urging Gov. Inslee to take a public stand alongside me against unfair tolling that would penalize Washington commuters once they crossed the state line, and I welcome his partnership and his strong statement today,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement.
“Sitting quietly by and hoping Oregon chooses to reverse course without vocal input from elected leaders is simply not going to work,” she added. “As Gov. Inslee said, we will be loud and clear in standing up for those we represent when it comes to tolling. Defending working class Washington residents is not a Republican or a Democrat issue, it’s what elected officials are supposed to do, and I hope more of our colleagues who represent this region join us and publicly weigh in against Oregon’s plan.”