Opinion: Clackamas County pandering or seeking solutions?
I found it interesting that the Clackamas County Commission appointed Paul Savas as the primary advisor of the toll committee.
Savas opposed the investment plan that allowed ODOT to perform environmental research related to tolling on I-205. A vocal group in Clackamas County opposes tolling on I-205. It is safe to say many would not rejoice if tolling were implemented. However, there is a long history in this country and in Oregon of tolling to both pay for capital construction of transportation projects, as well as for ongoing maintenance and repair. Tolling works and provides a direct nexus between those that use and those that pay.
The Interstate Bridge between Portland and Vancouver was paid for by tolling. The Astoria-Megler Bridge was paid for by tolling. And the Bridge of the Gods and Hood River Bridge are both toll bridges to pay for ongoing maintenance and repair. Clackamas County itself operates a tolled transportation link, the Canby Ferry.
Why the Clackamas County Commission would think Savas was the appropriate "primary advisor" on the toll committee is beyond comprehension. Savas has been a county commissioner for 12 years. During that time the county's streets and roads have continuously deteriorated to the point where many are now beyond the less costly maintenance but will require extensive and costly rehabilitation and rebuilding. Savas has joined the chorus of naysayers but has not publicly offered one solution to the transportation system funding crisis.
Oregon's transportation system funding is largely built around fuel taxes. As vehicles have gotten much more efficient the revenue stream has been decreasing at the same time vehicle numbers have dramatically increased along with the associated wear and tear on the transportation system. Fuel-tax-increase discussions are generally political non-starters and now we are seeing many more electric and hybrid vehicles, which are exacerbating the funding problem. It is clear the funding system needs to change.
Unless Savas has an effective funding alternative to propose to alleviate the frequent gridlock on I-205, and associated cost increases on goods and services, I suggest this appointment appears to be politically motivated. Savas is in a tight race for reelection and this panders to the vocal opponents of tolling, none of which have publicly offered a viable funding alternative. The Infrastructure and Jobs Act passed by Congress provides potential opportunities to garner substantial federal funds to help pay for projects like I-205. It would be a shame to lose this potential opportunity. The citizens of Clackamas County and the region deserve an effective and efficient transportation system, whether it be local streets, arterials or freeways.
R. Kent Squires is a resident of the Oatfield Ridge area in unincorporated Clackamas County, was the general manager of Oak Lodge Sanitary District from 1981-2008. He also served as director of Clackamas County's Water Environment Services for three years in the early 2000s.
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