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Elected regional government supported study in 2017. An advisory committee now wants more time to evaluate the proposals.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - So-called variable-rate tolls are believed to reduce traffic congestion.A Metro advisory committee wants the Oregon Department of Transportation advisory committee to delay a decision on whether to recommend variable-rate tolls on I-5 and I-205 to reduce congestion.

The elected regional government supported the study during the 2017 Oregon Legislature, which authoritized it. The study has been underway for months, and an ODOT advisiry committee is scheduled to make a recommendation to the Oregon Transportation Commission in July.

The commission, which oversees ODOT, is scheduled to decide whether to ask the Federal Highway Transportation Administration for permission to impose the tolls — also called congestion and value pricing — by the end of the year.

But on Feb. 16, Councilor Craig Dirksen wrote a letter on behalf of Metro's Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation asking that the decision be delayed. Dirksen is chair of the committee.

In a letter to the chairs of the Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation, Dirksen said the public needs more time to understand and comment on the idea.

"This is a new concept and people need to time to understand the benefits and potential impacts of congestion pricing, even as it applies to this study," Dirksen said in the letter.

Dirksen told Pat Boyle at KXL radio that the letter reflects the consensus of the JPACT members at its most recent meeting. It does not reflect the position of the Metro Council.

"ODOT is half-way through the process, and a lot of people feel they don't have enough time to evaluate the proposals," Dirksen told Boyle.

Senate committe chair Lee Beyer (D-Dist 6) told Boyle the Legislature is unlikely to change the scheduled, however.

"In consultation with ODOT we were told they do not perceive a need for delay on the value pricing study at this time," Beyer said.

The tolling study was authorized in the transportation funding package approved by the 2017 Legislature. It covers the freeways from the Washington border to their conjunction near Tualatin. A 26-member Portland Area Value Pricing Feasibility Analysis Policy Advisory committee is charged with coming up with recommendations for how to toll them.

The seven options being studied are:

1) Both interstates would be tolled on all lanes in both directions;

2) Both interstates would have one existing lane in each direction converted to a toll lane;

3) Both interstates would have an additional toll lane constructed in each direction;

4) I-5 would have no toll lanes and I-205 would have one toll lane added in each direction;

5) I-5 would be tolled on every lane in both directions; no tolls on I-205;

6) I-5 would have one existing lane in both directions converted to a toll lane; I-205 would have all lanes in both directions tolled;

7) I-5 would have one existing lane in both directions converted to a toll lane; I-205 would have a newly constructed toll lane added in both directions.

ODOT will also analyze how traffic would change on the interstates in the next 10 years if no tolls are imposed.

Variable-rate tolling describes tolling methods designed to improve traffic flow. The methods charge higher prices for driving on the interstates when demand is greater, such as during rush hour. Other cities, such as Seattle, have found such tools are effective in improving traffic conditions and providing more reliable travel times, according to ODOT.

You can read the letter here.

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