Tuesday, July 27, 2021
July 27, 2021

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Vancouver council scrambles to respond to ODOT tolling proposal

Information received after 5 p.m. Monday; responses due June 25

By , Columbian politics reporter
Published:

Vancouver City Council meetings typically run like clockwork. But Monday’s meeting took a bit of a turn as the council received some unexpected information related to tolling less than two hours before their regular meeting.

The members of the Value Pricing Advisory Committee, of which Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle is a member, received a packet with draft tolling proposals and related questions Monday evening. Their responses are due before the committee meets for the final time Monday and passes on a formal recommendation to the Oregon Transportation Commission.

Vancouver’s council would not meet again before responses are due, so the group quickly reviewed the 91-page document and discussed the proposal at length after scheduled public hearings wrapped up. The council had previously approved a five-point framework that it sent to the Oregon Department of Transportation with comment on Oregon’s tolling plans.

The final proposal from Oregon differed from what was expected.

In addition to Concept B, which tolls Interstate 5 between Going Street and Multnomah Boulevard, and Concept E, which adds tolling at Abernathy Bridge, Oregon is proposing to include Concept D. The additional concept adds a priced lane on Interstate 205 in each direction between Highway 99 and Stafford Road.

The draft also proposed keeping Concept C — which tolls all lanes on I-5 and I-205 from south of Marine Drive to the merging point of both freeways — on deck as a second phase if the first implementation round goes smoothly.

The council said they think Oregon should start with the Abernathy Bridge project to make sure things run smoothly before implementing further tolls.

“(They should) make sure they work out the bugs before they put it into the most congested corridor in the system,” said Councilor Ty Stober.

It was unclear if implementation of the proposal would occur all at once or in phases.

“I don’t think they should do everything … until they have a full-scale analysis,” McEnerny-Ogle said.

Mitigation techniques

The proposal did include some mitigation options that the council supports. The plan acknowledged the need to improve public transportation options, traffic diversion strategies and methods to reduce adverse impacts on low-income communities. But the proposal was missing one vital piece: bistate context. The council said the proposal needs to frame mitigation with a bistate context. Referencing C-Tran specifically is something McEnerny-Ogle would like to see.

“Considering we are the only freeway transit system in the entire metro, it should be in here somewhere,” she said.

The council also wants the proposal to make it clear the I-5 Bridge replacement is part of the long-term plan.

The draft included several questions of committee members asking if they support the assorted proposals. Councilor Bart Hansen advocated for an “If, then” approach rather than “Yes, but” phrasing.

“We are saying the city of Vancouver could support (the proposal) under these conditions,” Hansen said.

The council agreed. Their proposals may not be reflected in the final recommendation to the OTC, but will be included in the final report, said Rebecca Kennedy, Vancouver’s long-range planning manager, who put together the last-minute council presentation Monday evening. The additional comments and changes to the council’s letter will be sent to the committee this week.

If the final proposal doesn’t represent bistate interests, McEnerny-Ogle said they will go back to the OTC during its first meeting July 12 and say, “Let’s try this one more time.”

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