OTC To Decide On Tolling Plan

On Thursday Dec. 6, the Oregon Transportation Commission will consider an application for continued development of tolling on interstates 5 and 205 in the Portland area.

At its Dec. 6 meeting in Salem, the five-member commission will review the draft tolling application, which was developed after a yearlong process. OTC concurrence is needed prior to submission to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Gail Achterman Commission Room in the Oregon Department of Transportation headquarters, 355 Capitol St. N.E. in Salem. Meeting materials, including the agenda, tolling FAQs and the FHWA application, are available at https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/Get-Involved/Pages/Dec-OTC-Support-Materials.aspx.

Tolling is being considered to both ease congestion in the region and raise revenue for congestion relief construction projects. Variable toll rates that are higher during peak travel times would be used to help manage congestion on sections of I-5 and I-205. Tolling could also provide revenue for significant improvements with transportation upgrades, including new lanes and seismic reconstruction on I-205.

The OTC decision marks an important milestone in a project with its origins in HB 2017, also known as Keep Oregon Moving, the transportation package approved by the 2017 Oregon Legislature. The bill, which authorized new transportation projects throughout the state, directed the OTC to seek federal approval of a congestion pricing plan on the two Portland area interstate highways by the end of 2018.

In August 2018, the OTC provided direction on the tolling application for I-5 and I-205 that reflected the recommendation of a regionally representative 24-member bi-state Policy Advisory Committee (PAC). The PAC, which was formed under the direction of the OTC, forwarded its recommendation to the OTC for variable rate tolling on I-5 and I-205 in July, after seven months of analysis, six committee meetings, and extensive public engagement.

The application describes the plan to further evaluate tolls on:

  • I-5 between North Going Street/Alberta Street and Southwest Multnomah Boulevard in Portland, a seven-mile stretch of road. Tolling here could reduce congestion and help finance safety improvements in the Rose Quarter, one of the most severely congested corridors in the Portland area and a critical roadway for moving traded goods through Oregon. Exact limits of tolling on I-5 are still to be determined.
  • I-205 in and around the Abernethy Bridge, the exact location still to be determined. The tolls could ease congestion and finance the planned highway widening and seismic strengthening of I-205 between OR 99E and Stafford Road, including the Abernethy Bridge.

The rates and time of day for tolling on these freeways have not been determined

The application asks federal officials to clarify and confirm three critical next steps:

  • Eligibility and requirements under federal tolling programs;
  • Completeness of the proposed scope for additional analysis and project developments; and
  • FHWA ability for streamlined review under the National Environmental Protection Act.

If the tolling proposal is supported by FHWA, project refinement, environmental review, funding and construction of the tolling infrastructure would follow over the next several years.

Future analysis will focus on concerns that were raised frequently during the feasibility analysis phase of the project, including understanding equity impacts, needed improvements to mass transit services and other travel options and minimizing diversion impacts to neighborhood streets.

Congestion pricing, also known as value pricing, is a type of tolling used around the world that aims to reduce traffic congestion with user fees that are higher during more congested times of the day, usually in the morning and afternoon rush hours. Congestion pricing is typically implemented with transit improvements to provide more travel choices.

Source: ODOT

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