The federal government is likely to approve Oregon's request to toll parts of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 in the Portland area, but needs more information to make a final decision.
In December, the Oregon Transportation Commission requested permission from the Federal Highway Administration to impose the tolls in order to reduce congestion and to fund improvement projects.
The requests were made at the direction of the 2017 Oregon Legislature, which declared congestion on Portland-area freeways to be a statewide problem.
The Federal Highway Administration responded to the commission, and the Oregon Department of Transportation, on Jan. 8.
The letter signed by Oregon Division Administrator Phillip Ditzler said additional project detail is needed prior to final approval, but that both requests are "likely eligible" for tolling under the federal Value Pricing Pilot Program.
"This is a major step that will help us keep moving forward in what will be a long process," OTC Chair Tammy Baney said of the response. "In this letter, the (Federal Highway Administration) acknowledges the work completed in our feasibility analysis and points us toward the next steps we need to take to use tolling in Oregon to help us maintain a transportation system that will meet our growing needs."
Increasing such tolls during peak travel times is called "congestion pricing."
The portions of the freeways proposed to be tolled in the draft application are:
-- A seven-mile stretch of I-5 between North Going Street/Alberta Street and Southwest Multnomah Boulevard in Portland. These tolls are intended to reduce congestion and to help fund the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Plan in one of the most accident-prone corridors in the state.
-- I-205 in and around the Abernethy Bridge near Oregon City, with the exact location still to be determined.
These tolls are intended to ease congestion and finance the planned highway widening and seismic strengthening of I-205 between OR 99E and Stafford Road, including the bridge.
According to ODOT, in order to address the requirements outlined in the Highway Administration letter, it expects to begin the next round of technical analysis and public engagement in late spring.
The letter also said public outreach is critical to the success of the project.
Read the letter sent to Oregon officials by the Federal Highway Administration online at https://tinyurl.com/ybc52csr.
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