Residents in Clackamas County shared their views on the Oregon Department of Transportation's plan to add tolls to stretches of I-5 and I-205 in the next 5 years.
A virtual town hall was held Wednesday night where residents and commissioners pushed back against ODOT.
"This is a punitive tax," said Charlie Dudley, a Donald resident. "A toll is a punitive tax. It's a regressive tax, regardless how anyone wants to frame this, and we should not be doing that."
ODOT's plan is to make the road more seismically resilient — remove gridlock from the highway and from side streets where people will try and avoid traffic and create a finding source to manage congestion.
Lucinda Broussard, the tolling program director for ODOT said Oregon faces a $510 million shortfall every year when it comes to money needed to maintain and repair our roads. She also said it's estimated that by 2040 Portland households will spend an average of 69 hours a year in traffic.
"That's 69 hours of yours and my time spent in congestion and not with our families or doing things that we need to do," said Broussard.
Many people called out ODOT saying these tolls are inequitable.
Even the commissioners brought up they aren't the ones proposing it. They said they are largely against tolls.
Despite the push back, representatives with ODOT said tolling is necessary to provide much needed updates that the region will benefit from. They said the improvement on I-205 is directly linked to tolling.
In a statement from the Board of County Commissioners they said in part, "We believe it will have a disproportionate and detrimental effect on Clackamas County residents, businesses, and visitors."
It's not equitable because people in West Linn and Oregon City will pay the most because they use the road every day to get to school and work. People were upset that ODOT could have this much power without a vote.
"Regional disaster recovery should be a regional cost," said Richard Larson, a West Linn resident. "It should not be disproportionately placed on the local citizens."
Some of those at the meeting said it will depreciate their property value, while others are worried about low-income individuals.
"I can't imagine what it will be like, because many people will be diverted off 205," said Tracy Marks, a West Linn resident. "I want to know what they're going to do to be able to ensure that I can get out of my neighborhood."
Last week, Clackamas County commissioner Paul Savas urged people to show up and make their voices heard. He said there is nowhere for anyone to catch a bus and hardly any bus service along that stretch of I-205.
Clackamas County would have to pay for these improvements, Savas said, while other counties would not have to because their projects are funded.
"It's not really fair. Our residents should have a safe and viable choice and without choice they are essentially trapped in paying a toll without any viable alternative to use other forms of transportation," Savas said just before Thanksgiving.
The project lays out plans for 7 miles of improvement including:
• Nine bridges, either updated or replaced to withstand earthquakes
• Three new sound walls
• Seven new traveler information signs
• One new travel lane in each direction
• Five new locations with active walking and biking improvements
ODOT officials say by late 2025 people all around the region will be paying into this and benefiting from it. Tolling would begin winter 2024. The department also noted another toll would be added on the Rose Quarter in 2025.
There is a petition to stop the I-205 tolling along with more town-hall meetings the county will be holding. A similar event is planned for early 2022.
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