Realizing our transportation future through road user fees
Over the last decade, here in Clackamas County we saw some of the fastest growth in our state. More people, means more congestion on our roads, including the all too familiar backups on Interstate 205 near Oregon City and West Linn and the diversion. As we work to improve our outdated transportation system and ensure that we manage congestion, improve safety, provide needed funding and apply an equity lens to this work, we know tolling will be a necessary tool for our state and region, now and in the future.
Currently, there are two toll projects underway in our region: the I-205 Toll Project and Regional Mobility Pricing Project. Though both are still in the early planning stages, the Oregon Department of Transportation is committed to a thorough and transparent process to make sure they work for our communities. These two projects will allow for much-needed investments that will benefit our entire state, including the I-205 Improvements Project that will reduce the bottlenecks there and ensure the Abernethy Bridge over the Willamette River is more resilient for earthquakes.
While the Oregon Legislature has provided mechanisms for ODOT to finance some portions of the I-205 improvements, there is currently no funding dedicated to the project. Though we hope our region's projects will receive funding through Congress' infrastructure package, that legislation has not yet passed and it does not specifically earmark funding for these projects.
Due to improvements in technology, including more fuel-efficient cars and vehicle electrification, as well as increasing costs for infrastructure projects, old ways of funding projects like these are no longer enough to keep up. This is why the bipartisan leadership that passed the 2017 transportation package included new funding mechanisms — tolling — to help pay for a new Abernethy Bridge and road improvements on I-205.
We hear and share the concerns of the community around additional diversion onto neighborhood streets and around the potential impacts to low- and middle-income Oregonians. Right now, ODOT is actively working to fully understand the extent of these potential impacts so our roads work for our communities. The good news is, across the country, there are examples of tolling working for communities and helping to reduce congestion in real ways.
Lucinda Broussard is the toll program director for the Oregon Department of Transportation.
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