PORTLAND, Ore. – State transportation officials are moving forward in the process to start tolling part of two Oregon highways – Interstate 5 and Interstate 205.
If approved, the tolling would not start for at least five years.
With a unanimous vote, the Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Tolling Commission signed off on a plan to toll seven miles of I-5 through the Rose Quarter, as well as a part of I-205.
ODOT should know by April whether the Federal Highway Administration will allow them to go further in the toll planning process.
The proposal could be sent to Oregon voters.
Signatures were collected to get a measure on the November 2020 ballot, so Oregonians can decide whether the state can toll existing roads without building new ones. That effort is being challenged in court, which could delay it long past the window to get it on the 2020 ballot.
ODOT’s Tolling Commission is moving forward and continuing to plan, saying it welcomes any challenges. Officials say this project is needed to keep traffic moving, and the status quo isn't working.
During the public comment section at the hearing in Salem Christian Trejbal, the chair of the Overlook Neighborhood Association in North Portland, argued the current proposal would bring too much traffic to his neighborhood.
"You will encourage diversion in to residential neighborhoods that are ill equipped to prepare, ill equipped to handle it," Trejbal said.
Trejbal pointed out that starting the tolling at the North Going Street exit allows trucks from the industrial area of Swan Island to avoid the toll as they go north on Interstate 5.
"If you serve those political and business interests you will harm North Portland," Trejbal said.
ODOT says that where the tolls are placed is not set and could change over the next two years during the planning phase. It says during that time it will explore what it can do to discourage drivers from skipping the tolls by diverting on to side streets, but gave no possible solutions for how that could be achieved.