The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) does not have a funding problem, it has a spending problem.
Over the past few years, it has misspent over a billion of your taxpayer dollars on projects such as the failed Columbia River Crossing, failed Eddyville bypass, a sinking overpass near Bend [and] mismanaged contracts and electronic reader boards. Now they're trying to convince you that tolling I-5 and I-205 is in your best interest. That misspent billion dollars could have paid for the expansion from Stafford Road to the Highway 213 interchange, plus other projects, but they are now claiming poverty. This poverty claim comes at a time when the Oregon Legislature recently raised taxes on gas, plus vehicle registration and title fees, while at the same time wanting you to pay a toll (tax) to travel the I-205 Abernethy Bridge over the Willamette River near Gladstone, Oregon City and West Linn.
There are several reasons the Oregon Legislature needs to stop the proposal to toll the I-205 Abernethy Bridge. ODOT has determined drivers will be changing their routes to avoid the tolled bridge, which will negatively impact the communities nearby as drivers will be traveling through their neighborhoods. Especially impacted will be Highway 99E (McLoughlin Boulevard) and Highway 43 north and south of I-205, which is why the Gladstone City Council has voted to oppose the tolling of the I-205 Abernethy Bridge.
One goal being pursued by this tolling scheme is to force people out of their cars and into public transportation. Three problems with that belief are: (1) TriMet does not go to all of the locations where people need to travel. For example, it's over a mile to the closest TriMet stop from my workplace; (2) When traveling east-west, riders have to go through downtown, usually doubling the time it takes getting to their destination; and (3) People do not want to leave their cars for the unsafe surroundings of a TriMet bus or MAX train.
During the past couple of years that ODOT has been conducting their outreach, the resounding reply from the public is they do not want tolling. However, ODOT continues to go forth. They continue misspending your tax dollars because House Bill 2017 (HB2017) mandates they do so. They are not transparent; rather, their summaries are vague or do not provide pertinent information. For example, last summer when ODOT employees made a presentation to the Gladstone City Council, I asked how much had they spent so far on this project? The presenters said they did not know but would provide that information. It's been about six months, and they have not provided me or the city of Gladstone [with] the requested information.
So, to stop the tolling, not the project, we need to contact our state senators and representatives and have them repeal the section in HB2017 that mandates the tolling. We need to let our legislators know that ODOT has a spending problem, not a revenue problem, and they need to stop the tolling mandate for I-5 and I-205.
Neal Reisner is a Gladstone city councilor who decided not to run for reelection in 2020, so his term in office expires Dec. 31.
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