There was a time when "we the people" meant something. This newspaper's December article "ODOT: Public voices 'strong opposition' to proposed I-205 tolling" is yet another example of government's blind eye to the wishes of the people.
ODOT's own survey of public opinion showed that people across all demographics and geographies oppose tolling I-205. ODOT's response is we need to redouble our own public awareness campaign.
This is an abuse of the government that our forefathers designed: government of the people, by the people and for the people. Unfortunately, public officials have long forgotten that their job is to serve the public, not usher in projects for job security or to satisfy their personal agenda. The people have spoken and tolling of I-205 should be scrapped or drastically rethought, not redouble the marketing campaign.
I thought it was revealing that the ODOT toll program director is from Seattle. If Seattle is the model for Portland tolling, we should all be concerned.
I recently drove through Seattle, and it was a nightmare. Every few miles there were tolling message boards. It cost lots of money to use just a short section of the interstate. In the high-capacity lanes, traffic flowed at a snail's pace. If you didn't pay the toll "ransom," you didn't move at all.
My friends who live in Olympia often drive to Portland International Airport for their air travel rather than drive to SeaTac because the travel time is so unpredictable. And while visiting family in Spokane, I encountered several Seattleites who moved from Seattle because traveling just a few miles on Seattle roads could take an hour or move. They felt imprisoned.
Seattle's tolling has not solved their traffic issues, nor will Portland's tolling solve our traffic problems. It will only make driving Oregon roads costlier and more frustrating.
Eastern states have a long history of toll roads. I was heartbroken when I talked to a mother who lived in Virginia. Her daughter and granddaughter live 30 miles from her and she said that she can't afford to pay the $100 each way to visit them as often as she'd like. She's able to take "back roads" but it adds too much time to do often. She's considering moving.
Again, tolling shouldn't be about disrupting lives or frustrating people to take actions they don't want to take. We need a citizens board to help focus the discussion on win-win solutions and stop trying to solve problems with solutions that don't work. Public officials need to listen to the people who are impacted by their decisions.
Bob Rubitschun is an Oregon City resident.
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