The Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) plan to toll sections of Interstate 205 gained further momentum in September, when the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) agreed to invest toll revenue in the same areas from which it is collected.
Despite widespread public opposition, transportation commissioners gave the plan the go ahead to ODOT staff at a Sept. 17 meeting. It calls for tolling a section of I-205 in both directions at the Abernethy Bridge at Oregon City.
The City of Tualatin and other local jurisdictions have also been asking plenty of questions.
“We and a lot of other cities had been asking what is going to be funded by tolling and what isn’t,” Garet Prior, policy analyst with the City of Tualatin, told the City Council at its Oct. 12 meeting. “The sooner we know, the sooner we can discern what will be improved with this.”
ODOT had originally been considering applying toll revenue to highway and bridge improvements along the entire Oregon section of I-205 from Interstate 5 to the Columbia River. But public feedback overwhelmingly demanded that fee revenue be spent in communities where it is collected.
If this opinion prevails, it means that I-205 tolls would pay for improvements to a stretch of the highway from the Willamette River south to Stafford Road. This would include a seismic upgrade to the Abernethy Bridge, freeway improvements between 10th Street and Stafford Road, bus service involving Wilsonville’s South Metro Area Regional Transit system and other projects potentially benefitting Tualatin residents.
“If there are things missing that are not on this list,” Prior said. “That’s something we’d want to advocate for throughout this study process.”
Planning for tolling is set to take place over the next few years, with toll rates finalized by the end of 2022. Tolling is expected to start in the last half of 2024.
Councilor Robert Kellogg asked Prior whether or not tolling west of Stafford Road is being explored. He also asked about the expected duration of the tolling infrastructure, including booths and payment equipment.
“Is the idea that tolling from Abernethy back to Stafford is going to stay there forever?” he asked. “Or would they move the tolling infrastructure after the Abernethy bridge is improved?”
Prior said that remains up in the air.
“I haven’t heard the proposition that the tolling infrastructure would be moved,” he said. “Once the improvements are made, does the tolling continue? I think that’s still to be determined.”
“Well, remind them that their own numbers show that congestion will increase 90 percent on local roads if they toll that,” Kellogg said. “It will be a disaster.”