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News / Clark County News

Oregon moving forward with I-5, I-205 tolls

Current proposal would not touch either of the bridges

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian environment and transportation reporter
Published: November 29, 2018, 3:49pm

PORTLAND — The Oregon Transportation Commission will vote next week whether to create tolls along stretches of freeway through the Portland metro area in Oregon, marking the next step in a multiyear process.

The tolled areas along Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 would not extend north to the state line under the current proposal.

The proposed toll roads would include Interstate 5 between Southwest Multnomah Boulevard and North Going Street, a roughly 7-mile stretch through the heart of Portland, and Interstate 205 in and around the Abernethy Bridge around West Linn and Oregon City.

The proposed tolling would also use variable toll rates, or value pricing, that would vary based on traffic or time of day. Details, including the cost of the tolls, are to be determined.

The Oregon Department of Transportation released its proposal and analysis for the toll system Thursday. At a basic level, the state is asking for the federal government’s OK to continue reviewing and planning tolls along those stretches of I-5 and I-205.

Many details have yet to be worked out. At this point, the state’s proposal doesn’t speak to exactly where on those roadways tolling will begin and end, or what any physical facilities might look like. Nor do they get into what might be done to assist lower-income drivers, what kind of transit options will be made available to get people out of their cars, or if any dispensations will be made for Washington commuters.

If the Federal Highway Administration approves of the plan, the next steps include lengthy environmental reviews, research into other potential effects of tolling, funding and building any needed facilities, and additional work to solicit public feedback.

ODOT says the I-5 tolls would be aimed at reducing congestion and paying for safety improvements in the Rose Quarter. The I-205 tolls would ease congestion around the Abernethy Bridge and pay for a wider roadway and seismic upgrades between Highway 99E and Stafford Road.

The review of tolling on I-5 and I-205 started after the Oregon Legislature approved in 2017 a $5.3 billion funding package to pay for congestion-reducing projects, road and bridge improvements, and transit projects around the state. Legislators also directed the Oregon Transportation Committee to review value pricing tolling as a means to reduce Portland-area congestion.

The committee established the Portland Region Value Pricing Advisory Committee, which recommended the general location of the toll roads. The 25-member advisory committee — which included Vancouver Mayor Ann McEnerny-Ogle and Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring — spent six months discussing the proposal before agreeing on the possible tolling locations.

ODOT staff and transportation commission members, in a press conference announcing the release of the application, repeatedly stressed the project is in early stages. They said it would likely take several years to come to fruition if approved.

Commission Chair Tammy Baney described the application to the highway administration as a “toe in the water.”

“Right now, we’re just looking for the opportunity to go forward,” she said.

The Oregon Transportation Commission will meet, and consider the application, 9 a.m. Thursday at ODOT headquarters, 355 Capitol St. N.E. in Salem.

Columbian environment and transportation reporter