NATIONAL NEWS

Oregon governor wants tolling plan on 2 Portland-area freeways scrapped

Mar 11, 2024, 7:45 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek wants to scrap a plan to implement tolls on large sections of two Portland-area interstates, she said Monday.

Kotek sent a letter to the Oregon Transportation Commission on Monday saying the Regional Mobility Pricing Project for Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 should be halted, KGW-TV reported.

Kotek said in the letter that the “state’s path toward implementing tolling in the Portland metro area is uncertain, at best,” and that the challenges associated with the plan “have grown larger than the anticipated benefits.”

“Therefore, I believe it is time to bring the agency’s work on RMPP to an end,” she wrote.

In 2017, the state Legislature directed the Oregon Department of Transportation to start exploring tolling as a traffic congestion management tool that could be part of a major transportation funding package, but the plans as they’ve drawn increasing criticism as they’ve become clearer.

Kotek’s letter came a few weeks after a survey found a majority of Oregon voters opposed the Regional Mobility Pricing Project tolls, KOIN-TV reported.

The move also came after the Oregon Department of Transportation produced a report on the equity impacts of tolling and the agency’s plan to mitigate the impacts on low-income Portlanders. Kotek wrote in her letter that the report showed “a toll program which keeps toll rates low enough for working families and raises enough funding for major projects would fail to meet expectations for local project funding and revenue sharing.”

The state transportation agency is facing funding challenges because of a projected decline in revenue from the state’s gas tax, and Kotek said she expects the Legislature to tackle that issue in the 2025 session.

The governor said in the letter she is “confident that a more robust conversation on funding options will yield greater understanding and direction for our future moving forward.”

Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Julie Brown and Vice Chair Lee Beyer, as well as Oregon Department of Transportation Director Kris Strickler, all released statements later Monday suggesting they agree with Kotek.

Beyer said “metro leadership views on tolling have changed” and “local and regional opposition to tolling makes clear that Oregon is not ready for regional tolling.” Strickler said “it is clear the toll program cannot be designed in a way that meets the needs expressed by our local partners while also meeting the needs of Oregonians statewide.”

Brown said she looked forward to conversations about other funding sources but added that while she didn’t believe tolling should be the only tool to solve challenges, “as a steward of our state’s transportation system, I believe it should be one of our tools.”

Kotek said this move should not impact the planned collection of toll revenue on the interstate highway bridge between Oregon and Washington that’s set to be replaced as part of a multibillion-dollar project supported by federal funding.

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Oregon governor wants tolling plan on 2 Portland-area freeways scrapped