Open houses seek feedback on tolling
PORTLAND — Commuters will have another chance to learn about and weigh in on five options for tolling Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 in the metropolitan area during a series of "open houses" through April 30.
A 25-member committee convened by the Oregon Department of Transportation has another three months to recommend a regional tolling plan to policymakers on the Oregon Transportation Commission. The tolls would be aimed at changing driver behavior, encouraging the use of alternative modes of transportation and collecting revenue to pay for projects to reduce congestion.
"There isn't a silver bullet that solves (all the region's congestion problems), but I think we have to take some steps forward to address it," said Transportation Commissioner Sean O'Hollaren in an address to the committee Wednesday. "I am sincerely appreciative of the effort and input as we try to minimize the unintended consequences of doing this and make it something positive for the users of the system."
The options include tolling:
• An existing left northbound high-occupancy vehicle lane on I-5 from North Going Street to the Columbia River in North Portland and the corresponding left southbound general purpose lane
• All lanes on I-5 in the northbound and southbound direction between Going Street and Multnomah Boulevard
• All lanes of I-5 and I-205 from the Columbia River south to the junction of the two highways north of Wilsonville
• A newly constructed left lane in both directions of I-205 between Highway 99 East and Stafford Road, including the Abernethy Bridge
• All lanes of the Abernethy Bridge and use the proceeds to widen this section of I-205 and upgrade the bridge
Open houses are scheduled for:
• Saturday April 21, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Embassy Suites Airport, Pine Room, 7900 N.E. 82nd, Portland.
• Monday, April 30, in Vancouver, time and location to be determined.
An online open house will be available until April 19.
So far, the transportation department has received nearly 7,000 visitors to its online open house, 260 attendees at physical open houses held earlier this year and more than 1,000 comments via email and voicemail since November, said April deLeon-Galloway, a community engagement coordinator with the transportation department.
Themes of the feedback have centered on questions about whether tolling is effective at reducing congestion and how proceeds will be spent. Comments also have expressed concerns about how the expense would impact low-income commuters and those who cannot reach their homes or workplaces without using the freeways, deLeon-Galloway said.
A $5.3 billion transportation-funding bill, passed earlier this year, required the transportation commission to consider tolling in the Portland metro area but did not mandate the use of tolls.
The committee's recommendation to the transportation commission is due July 12. Transportation commissioners have until December to send a proposal to the Federal Highway Administration, which would need to approve any plan.
Working through approvals and impacts on the community and environment and installing infrastructure for tolls would take several years, according to the transportation department.