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At Clackamas County's request, state postpones potential transportation plan changes that must take place before tolling can begin

ODOT has temporarily postponed voting on changes to a transportation investment plan, which must be approved before work can continue on tolling stretches of I-205 and I-5.

County Commissioner Paul Savas requested a delay in voting, originally scheduled for this month, on ODOT's proposal to amend its Regional Transportation Plan, the Metro region's long-term guide for transportation-related planning and investments. Proposed amendments would also add language to the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program, the department's required process for allocating funding to transportation projects throughout the tri-counties.PMG FILE PHOTO - Clackamas County officials and residents have expressed concerns about tolling I-205, shown here running through West Linn just west of the Abernethy Bridge and Willamette River. COURTESY GRAPHIC: ODOT - An Oregon Department of Transportation infographic reveals many drivers avoid Interstate 205 during rush hour already without tolling.

ODOT's proposed amendments would add a preliminary engineering phase prior to the implementation of tolls on a portion of I-205 between Highway 213 and Stafford Road. The amendments would also outline connections between the I-205 Improvement Project and future tolling revenue.

If the amendments are voted through, ODOT will be allocated $28 million in funding to complete a project assessment required under the National Environmental Policy Act before tolling implementation can continue.

If the amendments aren't approved, "ODOT will have to stop work on the I-205 Toll Project NEPA process until such time that the MTIP and RTP can be amended," according to Clackamas County transportation development and land use staff.

Despite delaying voting on the proposed amendments, "ODOT is still very much committed to tolling," a spokesperson for the department told Pamplin Media Group, adding that revenue from tolling "is going to be needed" for funding future improvements to the highway.

ODOT's delay in voting will allow the Oregon Transportation Commission time to review the Clackamas County Coordinating Committee's proposal to develop a comprehensive plan for answering "critical systemwide questions" regarding traffic diversion mitigation and funding decisions before bringing the state department's proposed amendments to an official vote.

County officials are requesting that ODOT free up time for the comprehensive plan's development by allocating bipartisan federal dollars to move forward on schedule with the I-205 Improvement Project's earliest phase, which consists of widening areas of the highway and modifying adjacent bike lanes, on- and off-ramps, and sound pollution infrastructure.

During a Jan. 11 policy meeting, Savas explained to colleagues and constituents that the comprehensive pricing plan could provide direction so that tolling impacts are felt more evenly throughout the Metro region instead of heavily concentrating in Clackamas County, as many residents have alleged will happen.

"We don't want to Clackamas County to be first, or to be the guinea pig, so to speak," said Savas, the county commission's representative on the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, which will vote on the proposed amendments.

County Commissioner Sonya Fischer expressed concern that the transportation commission may not take advice from Metro on implementing tolling evenly region-wide and referenced a bill proposed by Sen. Bill Kennemer that, if passed, could allow residents living within 15 miles of a proposed tollway to vote on whether to approve or reject the proposal.

Jamie Stasny, regional transportation and land-use policy advisor for the county, reported talks of a potential amendment to Kennemer's proposal that would only enact the residential vote if ODOT tries to "toll one segment instead of the whole region."

County staff will return in front of the board with updates from ODOT and recommendations for next steps at a future session before ODOT's proposed amendments are brought to a vote.

This online news report was amended on Jan. 12 to include a clarification from ODOT about a delayed decision that must be reached before tolls can be implemented.


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