Portland road toll options rolled shown at open house

Will taxing local highways reduce traffic congestion? See the plans ODOT is pitching, and vote online for your ‘favorites’, by April 30 …

People learn more about, and comment upon, how a proposed freeway tolling plan will affect them at this outer East Portland open house in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

In April, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been holding numerous open houses to discuss imposing tolls on local freeways – or, as they call it, adding “congestion pricing” as a strategy to improve travel times and reliability on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 in and around Portland.

Their only open house in East Portland was on April 14 at Ron Russell Middle School.

ODOT started looking into taxing segments of freeways after the Oregon Legislature approved HB 2017 – “Keep Oregon Moving” – last year, which committed $5.3 billion to a wide range of transportation investments.

The bill directed the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) to pursue federal approval for “congestion pricing” on all, or parts, of Portland-area freeways.

Many have turned out and commented at the freeway-tolling open houses, says ODOT spokesperson Dave Thompson.

“We’ve had a huge amount of very engaged citizens come out to join us and discuss what they think about the possibility of tolling different segments of the local interstate highways,” said ODOT spokesperson Dave Thompson. “With more people coming in, and more cars arriving, we can never simply ‘build our way out’ of traffic congestion.

“We need take steps to help people understand the role they play in adding to this congestion, and ask themselves, as individuals, what they can do to be part of the solution.”

Two State Representatives serving East Portland areas – Janelle S. Bynum, District 51 (D), and Representative Jeff Reardon, District 48 (D) – learn more about the freeway tolling plans from Consultant Kirsten Pennington.

The last major freeway in the Portland area was completed about 1980. “But we’ve added lanes or fixed traffic congestion problems in certain sections within last year, [and in past years], but some people don’t recognize this,” reflected Thompson.

At the open houses, ODOT invited comment on five options of tolling. These could include adding toll lanes, tolling an existing lane, or even tolling an entire highway segment.

Folks in outer East Portland, from Highway 213 – that’s 82nd Avenue of Roses – out to Gresham would likely be affected, Thompson said.

“This is because some of the suggestions are for tolling parts of I-205 and the George Abernathy Bridge, and that’s a major route for Oregon City and West Linn,” said Thompson.

However, anyone who lives near a freeway might be concerned by the tolling plan, due to the possibility of drivers getting off to avoid the toll and cutting through the neighborhoods, perhaps at a high rate of speed, conceded Thompson. Much needs to be studied, he said, to avoid unintended consequences from the tolling plan.

ODOT District 1 Community Affairs Manager Shelli Romero takes a break from writing comments during the open house.

When “congestion pricing” is instituted, don’t expect to see toll booths, Thompson remarked. “In the United States, there are more than three dozen ‘congestion tolling’ projects that we can look at to learn which kinds of electronic and/or license plate recognition technology would work the best here.”

If you’re reading this before April 30, it’s not too late to attend an “online open house” and tell ODOT what you think about the plan. To do so CLICK HERE to open their official webpage.

ODOT is to deliver a recommendation to the OTC this summer; and by December 31, the OTC will submit its congestion pricing proposal to the Federal Highway Administration.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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