Mayor’s Corner April 2024

Cars travel north along Interstate 205 through West Linn. ODOT Photo
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Tolling in Oregon

The cities of West Linn, Oregon City, Tualatin, and Wilsonville, along with the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 555, sponsored an independent survey of voters in the Portland metro region (Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties) from February 7 to 13, 2024, to assess public attitudes about ODOT’s tolling proposals.

The following are the key findings. The margin of error is +/- 4.0%. 

Voters are concerned about major roads and highways in the region. 

74% of voters region-wide say they are concerned about the quality of major roads in the region, and 81% are concerned about traffic congestion. 

Voters are opposed to the concept of tolling in the Portland Metro region. 

Overall, 76% of voters oppose tolling. Opposition to tolling is highest in Clackamas County, at 91%, followed by Washington County, at 76% opposed, and Multnomah County, at 69% opposed. 

Voters also specifically oppose ODOT’s Regional Mobility Pricing Project (RMPP) and the I-205 Toll Project. 

After being provided a description of the tolling projects, 71% oppose Regional Mobility Pricing, and 64% oppose the I-205 Toll Project. Only 8% of voters strongly support the RMPP, and only 11% of voters strongly support tolling at the Abernethy Bridge. 

Opposition to tolling in Multnomah and Washington County corresponds to voters’ proximity to potential tolls, highlighting that more voters oppose tolls proposed to be nearer to them. 

When presented with the I-205 Abernethy Bridge Toll Project in Clackamas County, 53% of Multnomah County voters and 64% of Washington County voters were in opposition. After being presented with the tolling concepts on Highways 217 and 26 being studied by ODOT, 70% of Multnomah County voters and 80% of Washington County voters opposed those tolls. 

Voters say they are opposed to tolling because of costs and affordability, indicating that they do not believe that tolling is equitable. 

When asked why, voters most often cited affordability, including the perception of already paying high taxes (41%) and the belief that tolls would disproportionately burden low-income drivers (19%). 83% of voters agreed that tolls would place an unfair burden on people who don’t have options to shift travel patterns. 82% of voters say public transit would not provide a viable alternative to avoid tolls. 80% of respondents cited increased traffic congestion and safety issues on local roads as concerns. 

Most voters in the region report being aware of ODOT’s tolling proposals, but few have engaged in the decision-making process.

 61% of voters have heard about ODOT’s tolling proposals, but only 6% have attended any public meetings about the proposals, and 13% have provided ODOT with any feedback about them. 

To pay for transportation improvements in the region, voters support increasing registration fees on electric vehicles but oppose other methods. 

61% support increasing registration fees for electric vehicles; 36% support increasing registration fees for all vehicles; 33% support increasing gas taxes; 24% support a pay-per-mile system that would charge drivers a few cents per mile. 

In summary, the poll results show that residents, workers, and businesses have real concerns about the region’s transportation system and that tolling is perceived by a large majority of voters across the region as harmful and inequitable. When combined with the significant startup and administrative overhead costs that tolling requires, these poll results indicate that other revenue approaches would not only be fairer with less negative impacts to communities, but also would be more popular and more efficient with community tax dollars. 

Based on the poll’s findings, I applaud Governor Kotek’s decision to cancel one component of tolling for I-5 and I-205, specifically the Regional Mobility Pricing Project (RMPP), which would have charged drivers a “per mile” toll. This would have been in addition to bridge tolls for crossing the Abernethy Bridge. 

The tolling of the Interstate Bridge and the Abernathy Bridge is still in play as the Abernathy Bridge construction project has a $400 million shortfall, and the Interstate Bridge is a multi-billion dollar effort.  

The City of Tualatin, as well as other cities along I-205, look forward to continued conversations with our communities, ODOT, and the state legislature to find fair and equitable solutions to funding transportation projects in the region.

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