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The Oregon Department of Transportation is accepting public comment on the potential use of tolls on a portion of Interstate 205.
I-205 wraps around the east side of the Portland metropolitan area and extends into Washington state. The segment in question is the portion near the Abernethy Bridge, which carries the interstate over the Willamette River. The Abernethy Bridge lies about 12 miles south of downtown Portland.
ODOT launched an online survey, which opened in early August and will close Sept. 16, to gather feedback. The survey presents five tolling scenarios and allows participants to express their satisfaction with them. The revenue generated from the tolls is meant to help fund highway improvements along the corridor.
The map shows the general area where tolls could help raise revenue and manage congestion, ODOT says. (Oregon Department of Transportation)
We know tolls on I-205 will be a big change for our community, which is why it’s so important to share your opinions now,” ODOT Toll Program Director Lucinda Broussard said.
Each alternative would involve tolling all lanes of I-205 between Stafford Road and state Route 213, a stretch of about 7 miles. To keep traffic flowing, tolls will be collected electronically through a transponder, meaning vehicles won’t have to stop. Drivers without the transponder will have their license plates captured via camera and will be subsequently billed.
The first alternative involves a toll on the Abernethy Bridge, which, according to ODOT, would be simple to understand and implement. The second alternative refines the first, proposing to toll the bridge with gantries that are not located on the bridge.
Expanding scope, the third alternative would toll the bridge and the crossing that carries I-205 over the Tualatin River to the west. The fourth alternative proposes “segment-based tolls,” which would mean the tolling locations would be spaced out over four segments along the stretch of route. The fifth option, called a “single zone toll,” involves one rate that would apply to all trips entering the toll zone.
Besides presenting details of the alternatives, the survey asks participants about their age, income and how often they drive on I-205.
“Your comments about how tolls affect you and your community are critical to inform how we add tolls to the highway and which alternatives to study in the next phase of analysis,” Broussard said.
Managing congestion is another key goal for the tolling program. According to ODOT, about 100,000 vehicles traveled that corridor of I-205 every day before March 2020. The agency estimates congestion costs the Portland metropolitan region about $2 million per day. ODOT anticipates traffic congestion will return as risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic subside.
Jana Jarvis, president of Oregon Trucking Associations, said I-205 provides access to various industrial hubs and Portland International Airport. She noted it also is useful for truckers who want to avoid I-5, which is a major north-south corridor that stretches from Canada to Mexico, running through downtown Portland.
The intersection of interstates 5 and 84 in Portland, which represents an area known as the Rose Quarter, ranks No. 19 on the American Transportation Research Institute’s truck bottlenecks report.
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“If you are moving goods between Canada and Mexico and you’re going through the Portland area, you are more likely to take I-205 as a bypass around the city and all the congestion we have,” Jarvis said. “You only go on I-5 if you have to go on I-5. If you’re diverting around because you’re going from Washington to California or vice versa, then you’re going to take 205. That’s sort of the general understanding of the preferred routes.”
In addition to the survey, ODOT will host activities such as virtual open houses for people to ask questions and learn more about the tolling study.
ODOT is in the environmental review and analysis stage of the project. The agency aims to have a decision on the preferred alternative in 2021 and set toll rates in 2023.
Relieving congestion and improving quality of life were priorities outlined in the Keep Oregon Moving Act of 2017, which was designed to rely on taxes and fees to produce revenue for transportation investment.
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