Drivers in Portland’s metro area could see trips tolled by 2024 or 2025, if Oregon’s plan to toll Portland’s interstate system is enacted.
Oregon’s Metro Council heard an update on the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Interstate 205 Tolling Project at its meeting on Tuesday morning, while also working on a values, outcomes and actions document that the council expects to approve to help guide Portland’s impending tolling system.
In January, Oregon’s transportation department delayed making a decision on tolling parts of Interstate 205 and Interstate 5 over the next five years. The plan has been to implement a tolling system in numerous places throughout Portland’s metro area, starting with tolls on the south end of I-205. The toll is expected to begin in 2024 or 2025 and cover the section of the interstate running from Stafford Road to state Highway 213. The department’s broader program, the Regional Mobility Pricing Project, is expected to toll the remainder of I-205 and I-5 from the Interstate 5 Bridge to the Boone Bridge in Wilsonville, Ore.
The tolls would help to fund local road improvements. For example, I-205 tolls will help pay for adding another lane in each direction on the freeway from Oregon City’s Abernathy Bridge to Stafford Road.
Concerns have been raised in communities in Clackamas County that tolling the freeways will result in drivers taking smaller roads that run through the metro area’s cities. This is being studied but is expected to be a problem that could be aided with funds from the toll.
ODOT intends to initiate congestion-based pricing as a way to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Charging higher tolls during peak traffic hours supposedly would encourage drivers to choose another mode of transportation.
“We’re supportive of congestion pricing at large because we’re supportive of the outcomes that we can see for climate and for people to have local choices for how they’re going to get around,” said Metro Councilor Christine Lewis.
Tolling is controversial in the region. U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has written letters to officials in both states opposing the tolls on the grounds that Washington commuters would be unfairly taxed for local road improvements they would use rarely, if ever, and that the tax would be regressive, because working people would pay more.
Clackamas County, which would see the first tolling project in the tri-county area, requested the transportation department’s delay because of concerns with being the first tolling project implemented. A bill, Senate Joint Resolution 204, was proposed in the Oregon Legislature by Sen. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, that, if passed, could allow people living within 15 miles of a proposed tollway to vote on whether to approve or reject the proposal. No committee meetings have yet been scheduled for the bill.
The tolling project would require federal approval before it could be enacted.