Clackamas County is partnering with the Oregon Department of Transportation to field questions, comments and concerns about tolling that ODOT says is coming to I-205 and I-5 in the next five years, despite pushback from officials and residents across the county.
ODOT representatives will join Clackamas County commissioners for a virtual town hall on Wednesday, Dec. 1, during which the public is invited to learn about the projects and provide feedback on their potential impacts to families and communities.
The virtual session is limited 500 attendees, so the county is encouraging community members to register early and prepare comments to be one minute or less. Per a county press release, a recording of the event will be available on the county's YouTube channel the following day and future webinars on transportation and related topics may be held in early 2022.
Specific information commissioners are interested in learning from community members during the Dec. 1 meeting includes:
• What elements of the county's values statement on proposed interstate funding solutions resonate with the public and what else could be added to reflect the community's needs?
• Concerns or potential benefits regarding tolling on I-205 between Stafford Road and OR-213.
• Concerns or potential benefits regarding regional congestion pricing (tolling) on I-5 and I-205 from Wilsonville to the Columbia River.
Interested parties are advised that the board or the chair reserves the right to stop comments that are out-of-order or off-topic.
ODOT's I-205 Toll Project, which is expected to hit travelers in 2024 or 2025, will cover the 7-mile stretch of the freeway between Stafford Road and Highway 213 and help fund construction of a third travel lane in each direction along that corridor.
The Regional Mobility Pricing Project will toll the rest of I-205 along with I-5 from the Interstate Bridge at the Columbia River to the Boone Bridge in Wilsonville beginning in 2025 or 2026. Federal approval of the project is expected in 2024, according to Lucinda Broussard, toll program director for ODOT.
Clackamas County has opposed tolling for years, however ODOT holds final implementation authority, so the board in April adopted a statement of values regarding the projects rather than taking a traditional position in or out of favor.
County commissioners acknowledged the need for additional interstate improvement funding yet explicitly stated the county's belief that interstate tolling will have a "disproportionate and detrimental effect on Clackamas residents, businesses and visitors."
An inclusive public engagement process and implementation of alternative transportation options are among the county's suggestions for ODOT to ensure its approved funding solutions are as equitable, safe, reliable, resilient and economically beneficial as possible.
"Regional conversations are happening about how our transportation system will be funded that will significantly affect the residents of Clackamas County," said Chair Tootie Smith in a statement. "We need to be a leader at the table and ensure the needs of our residents and businesses are represented."
"Most everyone is against tolling," said Commissioner Paul Savas in a statement. "No one wants to pay for something they believe they are already paying for just to go to work or take their kids to school."
"However, if the legislature insists on tolling or congestion pricing, Clackamas needs to be in a leadership position to assure our residents receive benefit for the toll they pay," he added, continuing that the statement of values "should get us there."
The proposed tolling process on I-205 consists of an electronic system that would automatically bill drivers as they travel across the Abernethy Bridge, linking Oregon City and West Linn, raising concerns among leaders and residents in both cities who believe they will be impacted unfairly.
One reason OC and WL residents have opposed tolling is the extra diversion it would foreseeably create on local roads. During peak traffic hours, McLoughlin Boulevard; Stafford, Borland and Ek roads; and Willamette Falls Drive are often slowed by commuters cutting through OC and WL to bypass the I-205 bottleneck. Tolls could make this diversionary traffic worse on local roads that don't have the capacity for it.
According to Broussard, both toll programs will use variable rate tolls, meaning rates will be higher during peak traffic hours and lower during off hours. ODOT won't know the actual rates until about six months before the programs begin, when the Oregon Transportation Commission sets the prices.
Tolls collected on a particular corridor will stay on that corridor, funding projects in the same area, thanks to a recent mandate from the transportation commission, she added.
In 2028, when the I-205 is projected to be completed, Broussard said the transportation commission will decide if the tolls are discontinued after the project or if they go on in perpetuity.
To attend the virtual event on Dec. 1, click the Zoom link here: https://clackamascounty.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_dTuf4HD3TzeYrmFHsG6dJA
Webinar ID: 832 0441 2300
Those interested may also attend the event by dialing one of the following three phone numbers: 346-248-7799, 408-638-0968, or 669-900-6833.
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