Canby leaders oppose I-205 tolling
Canby Mayor Brian Hodson recently attended a Region 1 Area Commission on Transportation meeting, where he received an update on the Interstate 205 tolling project. He shared the update with city councilors on Wednesday, Aug. 5.
The Oregon Department of Transportation has revealed five proposed options for tolling Interstate 205 on or near the Abernethy Bridge and has opened an online public comment period, lasting through Sept. 16, for people to offer feedback.
The options, which vary on the number and placement of toll gantries, are all expected to generate revenue to help pay for Interstate 205 improvements between Stafford Road and Oregon Highway 213, including the Abernethy Bridge seismic upgrade, according to ODOT.
Hodson told councilors that a large part of the conversation at the R1ACT meeting focused on where traffic would divert to when drivers seek to avoid the tolls.
"I've always said traffic is like water; it finds the path of least resistance," Hodson said.
One of those paths for drivers inevitably will be Highway 99E, which runs through the center of Canby.
"They've got that as one of their key areas that is going to be impacted with tolling," Hodson said.
Hodson said he told leaders they also should consider backroads around Oregon City, such as South End Road, which commuters use when 99E is backed up.
The potential impacts to Canby do not sit well with some of the city councilors.
"As you know because I've told you many times, I have great optimism that we will cause a lot of economic damage and human misery with this plan as they're proposing it," Council President Tim Dale said. "I'll just say I have great optimism that's the way it will go. It's a long conversation, but Canby has a lot of frustration ahead of it."
Hodson somewhat agreed with Dale's outlook on the tolling plan, saying, "I'm not for tolling the existing highways," noting that the tolling options could be costly to families.
Canby Councilor Trygve Berge expressed uncertainty about the planned use of toll funds.
"I think the state has found ways to squander the gas tax money time and time again," Berge said. "So, until they figure out exactly how this is going to be spent, I really question it as well. I have big concern that part of it is going to get squandered and mismanaged once again and not be able to do what they want with it."
Hodson pointed out that before the tolling plans can come to fruition, they must be approved at the federal level. Per ODOT, the Federal Highway Administration, in cooperation with ODOT, will consider the options in 2022.
Hodson also mentioned there has been some high-level opposition to tolling, namely from U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon's 4th Congressional district, who serves as chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. In 2018, DeFazio told the Corvallis Gazette Times editorial board: "Over my dead body."
For more information on the tolling project and to give feedback, visit ODOT's virtual open house here.
Paris Achen contributed to this story.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.