Opinion: Let's have ODOT toll everyone -- or no one
ODOT is unwavering in its commitment to toll Oregon roads. In my previous articles, I've shared that ODOT wants the extra revenue, and they unashamedly acknowledge that a large portion of the collected tolls will be used to pay for administrative costs, third-party collection, mass transit systems, and pedestrian and bicycle paths.
When ODOT is asked why tolling is necessary, their explanation is "ongoing maintenance costs." Please hold that thought.
I worked in an industry helping people with disabilities transition back into the workforce. It didn't seem right that people with disabilities weren't considered for jobs they were qualified for. They deserve the same chance to pursue their career goals as everyone else.
I volunteered my time to raise funds to help a mother pay for her medical expenses. She had to choose between buying her prescription drugs or buying medicine for her ailing son. This decision literally cost her an arm and leg, to amputation. It wasn't right that a broken insurance system forced her to choose between herself and her child.
I fundraised to help send over 100 high school students to Washington, D.C., to represent our state in the National Memorial Day Parade. Local businesses and residents stepped up to make this dream possible. It wasn't right that more affluent schools could simply write checks and make this happen.
I became involved in the Big Brothers Program. I wanted to make a difference in the life of a young boy. It's not fair that this boy had no man in his life to talk with, play catch or just hang out. These are a few of the times that I've given of myself and paid it forward. It's my attempt to bring equity to unfair or inequitable situations.
So back to tolling. I understand that roads and bridges require maintenance. This is nothing new; ODOT shouldn't pretend it is. It's been that way since the beginning of time and will be that way into perpetuity.
If Oregon's high income-tax rate can't fund road maintenance, nor can revenue from fuel taxes, vehicle registration/title fees, driver licenses, heavy vehicle-use tax, federal funds, etc., and tolling is needed, then here's my radical idea: Toll everything!
All roads and bridges have maintenance costs, not just Clackamas County's I-205 and I-5. Every road, highway, bridge, footpath, bicycle lane, mass-transit rail has maintenance. In the spirit of equity, don't ask one group of people to pay for something and then give another group a free pass. That's not fair; it's discrimination.
No one wants to pay tolls, but if we must have them, then level the playing field. Make every Oregonian abide by the same rules — toll all public road surfaces.
I'm still vehemently opposed to tolling of any kind on public roads. I feel the residents of Clackamas County should be treated the same as residents of Portland, Salem and Eugene. We should have one system for paying for infrastructure maintenance. ODOT needs to stop playing political favorites and cease proposing unfair tolls on the law-abiding citizens of Clackamas County.
An all-or-none approach would level the playing field and treat everyone the same.
Bob Rubitschun is a resident of Oregon City.
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