ODOT details 'value pricing' proposals to City Council
Discussion of the City's General Obligation (GO) bond was the headliner at the Monday, April 9 West Linn City Council meeting, but the council also heard a presentation from the Oregon Department of Transportation regarding value pricing on highways and agreed to extend City Councilor Bob Martin's leave of absence.
One of the first points ODOT representative Judith Gray made during her presentation Monday was that "value pricing" (also known as "congestion pricing) is not the same as tolling a road.
"It's a transportation management strategy," Gray said. "It's different from some historic tolling because historically tolling has sometimes been used as a funding strategy. But congestion pricing and value pricing, by definition, is used to manage traffic congestion by having the higher price set during the worst congestion times."
She compared it to Uber's "surge" pricing measures or even going to the movies, which can be more expensive during peak times as opposed to attending a matinee.
The Portland Metro Area Value Pricing Committee is currently evaluating five potential value pricing scenarios on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205. The committee was formed in response to the 2017 transportation package — HB 2017 — that was passed by the Oregon Legislature and mandated the state to submit a tolling proposal to the Federal Highway Administration by the end of 2018.
Three of the five proposals affect West Linn, which prompted Gray's appearance Monday. While one option would install value pricing on all lanes of both I-5 and I-205 running from the Washington border down to Tualatin and Oregon City, another would create a new value pricing lane on I-205 running east-west from Stafford Road to Oregon 99E (including the Abernethy Bridge) and a third would create a single value pricing location on the Abernethy Bridge.
The other options are to put value pricing on I-5 just south of the Oregon-Washington border or on all lanes of I-5 running through downtown Portland.
With the Value Pricing Committee aiming to make its recommendations at the end of June, the council took the opportunity to express its displeasure with the idea of value pricing near the city.
"It would be a significant cost to West Linn citizens every time they go on a trip to go anywhere," City Council President Brenda Perry said. "And we are a bedroom community, which means our people go out to work and they have to go out at those busier times. And they have to use cars — we don't have transportation options."
Each of the councilors noted that traffic diversion — cars exiting the clogged freeways and cutting through local streets like Willamette Falls Drive — is already an issue and would only worsen if value pricing came to the area. City Councilor Teri Cummings noted that on a recent trip to California, her navigation system steered her away from tolls by directing her to another highway.
"The concern here in this section that goes through West Linn is there isn't another highway to choose from," Cummings said. "We just have our local roads and they're not built for that kind of capacity."
Gray said she didn't have answers for all of those concerns, but that the input was valued.
"I'm not able to satisfy your concerns about diversion, but those are the right concerns," she said. "That is really important input, and every place has different conditions. ... I can only assure you that your concerns are well-placed and it's the right time."
The Value Pricing Committee held its fourth meeting Wednesday, and ODOT is also hosting an open house on the topic April 12 at the Museum of Oregon Territory in Oregon City from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Additionally, an online open house is available until April 19.
Learn more at odotvaluepricing.org/.
Martin leave extended through May
While a March 27 investigation report from attorney Jill Goldsmith concluded that City Councilor Bob Martin did not create the "pervasive" environment of sexual harassment that was alleged by advisory board member Emily Smith, Martin will not return to the council yet.
Martin requested to remain on leave until June 1 pending the results of a second investigation, and the City Council granted that request April 9. The second investigation is addressing claims made by another accuser, Alice Richmond, who said she was subjected to "abusive and intimidating behavior" from Martin on multiple occasions.
Martin could return earlier than June 1, depending on when the investigation is completed and its conclusions.