Opinion: Clackamas County town hall made tolling concerns clear
Last week nearly 300 citizens signed up and participated in the Clackamas County Tolling Town Hall. It was clear that ODOT's current plan to toll I-205 from Highway 213 to Stafford Road and I-5 through the Rose Quarter does not have broad public support. We believe ODOT's Regional Mobility Project to toll all of I-5 and I-205 will face a similar negative response.
Our county commissioners are not responsible for this tolling. Unlike the past two years of ODOT meetings, at the Town Hall citizens were allowed to freely express their concerns with tolling. Thank you for this forum!
Comments were limited to 60 seconds each to allow as many people as possible to express their concerns. Not a single caller expressed support for tolling and there were woefully few responses from ODOT to the citizen's concerns.
Concerns were expressed about toll levels, toll sunsetting, negative impact on home values, loss of revenue for local businesses, increased financial burden on low-income travelers resulting in reduced equity, increased diversion of traffic to side roads, reduced safety in neighborhoods, the lack of non-tolled lanes, no alternate non-tolled routes, and a disproportionate tax burden on local Gladstone, West Linn and Oregon City citizens.
We believe efficient high-quality roads are critical to a vibrant economy, and we acknowledge that roads require significant capital to construct and have ongoing maintenance needs. With that said, Oregon currently has no toll roads and only a couple of tolled bridges. ODOT is saying there is no non-tolling source of revenue to add an additional lane to the I-205 Stafford corridor, yet for decades we have funded highway expansions without tolls. ODOT's current budget is over $4.7 billion per year — they certainly have other funding sources.
In fact, ODOT just received an early Christmas present of $1.2 billion of unexpected new funding from President Biden's Infrastructure Project. We are offended that not a penny of this new funding is being directed to I-205.
While our local County Commission is expressing tolling concerns, state legislators and ODOT have been actively pursuing tolling since 2017, and the toll creep was expanded to the entire Portland Metro area this past summer. The citizens' voices are not being heard and respected.
We are active in a grassroots citizen-driven effort to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2022 ballot that will require a regional vote before any new tolls are enacted. The initiative is simple and comprehensive, and will force ODOT and the OTC to be transparent. The initiative does not make it impossible to implement tolling, but to implement a new toll, if ODOT want our support, they will first have to work with the citizenry and be transparent with their toll plans.
Please join us at https://NoToll.Army to download and sign the IP-41 petition.
Dean Suhr is a West Linn resident. Lorely Miller and Paul Edgar are Oregon City residents. Lisa O'Brien is a Gladstone resident.
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