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Value Pricing Policy Committee nears the end of a disappointing process

Ken Vance Editorial Clarkcountytoday.comIf Clark County residents are going to be saved from tolls on I-5 and I-205, it’s going to be done at the federal level

There have been a number of times over the years when I have expressed frustration with members of the community who don’t take the time to get involved in important issues impacting Clark County.

It’s my job to be informed, so I have a reason. That said, I don’t consider myself among the most informed residents of the area but I’m certainly somewhere on the top half of the spectrum.

Over the past year, our staff here at ClarkCountyToday.com has attempted to keep Clark County residents informed on a variety of issues. Perhaps the one topic we’ve devoted the most effort to is transportation congestion, and more specifically, Oregon’s attempt to place tolls on I-5 and I-205 even though it is my assertion that the revenue generated from those tolls will do very little to address the transportation congestion that’s become all too much a part of our everyday lives.

Earlier this week, the 25-member Value Pricing Policy Advisory Committee held its second-to-last meeting. I hope you read ClarkCountyToday.com reporter Chris Brown’s story, which can be found with the following link:

ODOT reduces their options for tolling Portland highways

The highlight to Brown’s story was his report that “Oregon transportation officials and the 25-member Public Advisory Committee tasked with implementing the Oregon Legislature mandate to explore tolling in Portland narrowed their options to three, down from the original eight concepts.

“Committee members were given 147 pages of analysis about the various Value Pricing concepts, and why WSP Consulting, which is working with ODOT to evaluate the plan, recommended dropping two of the five concepts that had made it to this point.’’

Brown accurately told readers what the primary news of the meeting was. So, I want to make it clear, I’m not suggesting he “buried the lede’’ as we say in the journalism business. But, what I found to be of most interest to me was a reminder that Brown included at the end of his story.

“The Advisory Committee clearly has no consensus about which direction they should go, but were reminded multiple times during the meeting that they are not a voting panel, and consensus wasn’t needed in order to move forward,’’ Brown wrote. “The group will meet for the final time on June 25 to firm up their recommendations, which will go to the Oregon Transportation Commission. The first chance the public will have to weigh in with OTC will be at their meeting on July 12.’’

I didn’t have high expectations for what would be accomplished by this Value Pricing Policy Advisory Committee. After all, just three of the 25 members were from southwest Washington. I expected all along that the committee’s work would culminate with a recommendation that folks like me in Clark County wouldn’t be pleased with. But, I can be naive at times, and I gave in to hope that a “Hail Mary’’ would somehow be completed during the process.

But, there was no chance for such a thing in this process because committee members have had absolutely no control, and very little impact on the decisions that have been made. This process has been controlled and manipulated 100 percent by Oregon Department of Transportation officials and the consultants they’re working with.

The committee members have not voted on anything during the process. I know it’s a public advisory committee, but it’s been a complete waste of time. The only thing that has been accomplished is Oregon officials can now saw they’ve had a transparent public process — which in addition to the committee’s meeting schedule has included many other public meetings and open houses. But what good is a public process like this if it is merely a ruse?

On a few occasions, committee members have been asked for a quick thumbs up or thumbs down on recommendations from staff. But, there’s been no official tally of those actions and they’ve seemed hurried and ineffective. Committee members often ask questions, some specifically about options that have been eliminated that they would like to see resurrected, but their inquiries never seem to have an impact or result in any changes.

So, if you’ve followed our lead to get involved in this process by either participating in one of the open houses or at least by informing yourself, I apologize that it’s been an apparent waste of time.

I also applaud the efforts of Clark County residents such as John Ley and Margaret Tweet, both of whom offered testimony during this week’s Value Pricing Policy Committee meeting in Portland. You can watch their testimony here:


Clark County residents Margaret Tweet and John Ley testify before Portland Value Pricing Policy Advisory Committee earlier this week. Video courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation.

The good news, as we’ve shared with you in recent weeks, even if Oregon officials succeed in their efforts to toll drivers on I-5 and I-205, the implementation of those tolls is still years off. And, even better news is that whatever plan Oregon officials settle on will need federal approval. Let’s hope that when that process takes place, it’s meaningful and someone with the authority to impact the process shows the presence of common sense.

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About The Author

Ken Vance, Editor

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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