In this month’s Mayor’s Corner, I’d like to bring you up to date on the current Metro Regional Pricing Study and Oregon’s Tolling/Regional Mobility Pricing Project discussions. Per ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) the state is facing a $324 million shortfall in transportation funds to maintain the state’s bridges and roads. ODOT also points out that Portland-area commuters will spend an average of 69 hours stuck in traffic a year without new investments in transportation. As you may have noticed, traffic volume on I-5 by Wilsonville Road is back to 94.2% of what it was pre-COVID.
ODOT is moving forward with studying a tolling program that will toll I-5 from the Boone Bridge in Wilsonville to around North Going Street in Portland and all of I-205 in Oregon. The purposes of the tolls are to manage congestion and to generate revenue needed for transportation improvement projects. The benefits of tolling, per ODOT and Metro, are:
• Improved travel time and increased reliability
• Reduced greenhouse emissions and fuel consumption
• Sustainable funding for transportation investments
• Change traveler behavior (shifting trip times, traveling less often, changing travel modes, carpooling, routes, etc.)
• Advancing equity and mobility strategies/investments
Metro is looking at three other congestion pricing tools in addition to tolling, including:
• a vehicle miles traveled fee (drivers pay a fee for every mile traveled)
• cordon pricing (drivers pay to enter an area such as downtown Portland)
• parking pricing (drivers pay to park in certain areas)
You may ask, ‘How much will tolls cost?’ That is what ODOT is looking at soon. They are looking at a peak hours toll rate and an off-peak hours toll rate, both of which you will know before you get on the road. You will pay more to drive during peak hours with the thought that you may alter your travel plans to avoid driving during peak hours in order to pay a lower toll. The earliest tolling would start is in 2024 and it would be limited initially to a stretch of I-205 between Stafford Road and the Abernathy Bridge. ODOT will identify impacts of tolls using regional models. Potential impacts could include:
• Rerouting effects on local routes – congestion, safety and business impacts
• Economic effects on individuals and historically excluded and underserved communities
• Economic effects of improved goods movement and access to job centers
Based on the lessons learned from the initial tolling segment, tolling would be rolled out incrementally throughout the region on the two interstates.
It is my opinion, as well as other elected officials in the region, that tolling is a certainty despite strong local opposition. It is important that we provide advice/suggestions/requests so that our community needs are addressed. ODOT will be launching I-205 Toll Project listening sessions in early 2022 and I encourage you to participate. I want to get the word out early, as ODOT is currently sending out updates and surveys to subscribers via email on the Oregon Tolling/Regional Mobility Pricing Project. To subscribe go to www.oregon.gov/odot/tolling/Pages/Contact-Us.aspx or you can call 503-837-3536 and leave a voicemail. You can also email your thoughts by emailing the project team at OregonTolling@odot.state.or.us.