Tolling and diversion is coming
Diversion is coming, diversion is coming. Ready or not, like it or not, believe it or not, "pave first/pay later" tolling (in whatever format that may be) on I-205 and I-5 and diversion is coming to our city, county and region. Tolling has benefits, it also has costs. In 2017, Oregon House Bill 2017 passed as part of the Oregon state transportation act that among other actions, charged the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to establish tolling on the freeways to manage congestion, deal with climate change and generate revenue to pay for a variety of improvements. Bottom line is any user of the freeways will pay to use I-5 (Boone Bridge to Columbia River Interstate bridge) and I-205 (I-5 to the Glenn Jackson Bridge). Tolling could begin as early as late 2024 on I-205 and I-5 later.
Barring a change of mind by the legislature (unlikely) or a vote of the people (increasingly possible but faces an uphill battle), tolling is in our future. The question for our city then becomes: What can the city do to mitigate the impact of diversion onto Stafford Road, Rosemont Road and Highway 43? Do we want Stafford and Rosemont roads to look like the picture in this article?
What tolling and diversion does is changing the timing of the trip(s), the destination, how to get to the destination, trips not made (teleworking) and its impact to non-freeway roads. People divert for two reasons — time and money. Diversion for time is already in place. Diversion due to money will add to the challenge.
There are many ways to describe tolling. The impact is the same — to manage congestion and raise money to pay for mitigation improvements from diversion, such as bike/pedestrian enhancements, intersection improvements, additional off highway bus stops, seismic improvements, etc. Tolling is needed to pay for all the projects, including the addition of a third freeway lane on I-205 from Oregon City to Stafford Road.
Make no mistake, whether it is diversion due to tolling or increases in population in the area, traffic on these roads will be increasing. It is not a question of if. The question is one of mitigation. What does it mean for Lake Oswego and what can Lake Oswego do to mitigate impacts?
For Lake Oswego, the goal must be to manage the unavoidable so that we can avoid the unmanageable. There are no solutions, only trade-offs. Regardless of what trade-off selected, it will require infrastructure improvements and the best way to do so is living within existing resources available to the city. What can be done? Here are suggestions.
1) Buy land or conservation easements along Rosemont and Stafford Road. Funds are available to do so. Not moving forward on parking and ADA improvements in the recently acquired Stevens 5 acres frees up cash as does sharing the bond premium from the recent voter approved school district bond measure.
2) Work with the county to keep Stafford/McVey and Rosemont as two-lane highways. Argue against proposals to make Stafford/McVey and Rosemont four-lane highways.
3) Lobby for the use of mitigation dollars bike/pedestrian enhancements, intersection improvements, additional off highway bus stops, seismic improvements, etc. for pedestrian and bike enhancements on Rosemont and Stafford.
4) Focus on building up (with Lake Oswego standards), not out in the Foothills commercial and light industrial area.
5) Lobby for ODOT to bring Highway 43, an orphan state highway, up to city standards and transfer Highway 43 to the various cities.
Council needs to identify and be specific about mitigation measures to be included in the tolling project.
As always — no solutions, only trade-offs of costs and benefits. But regardless of what trade-off selected, it will require infrastructure improvements and the best way to do so is living within existing resources using tools available to the city.
Tolling is coming. Mitigation is required. If tolling does not happen, the above suggestions will enhance the quality of life in our city.
Jeff Gudman is a former Lake Oswego city councilor.
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