Oregon promises equity as the framework for tolling on I-205 and I-5

The transportation agency calls this a first-in-the-nation approach to tolling a major highway

VANCOUVER — It may still be another four or five years before tolling comes to I-205 near Oregon City, but the process is already well underway.

At an update provided to the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC) during their monthly meeting this week, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) officials said the current phase of the project is centered largely around equity.

ODOT Tolling Program Director Lucinda Broussard gives a virtual presentation to the SW Washington Regional Transportation Council on the Equity and Mobility Advisory Committee working on the I-205 tolling project. Photo courtesy CVTV.org
ODOT Tolling Program Director Lucinda Broussard gives a virtual presentation to the SW Washington Regional Transportation Council on the Equity and Mobility Advisory Committee working on the I-205 tolling project. Photo courtesy CVTV.org

“Equity is throughout this whole process,” said Lucinda Broussard, ODOT’s tolling program director, “basically laying something on top of this and saying ‘hey, what’s equitable for tolls?’”

ODOT has created a 15-member Equity and Mobility Advisory Committee, including three members from Southwest Washington, with the goal of engaging historically underserved communities to be part of the conversation around tolling.

“First in the nation. Nobody does this,” said Broussard. “We’re kind of the ones saying, ‘hey, when you’re designing, what does equity look like? How do you put equity into a program.”

The tolling program was born out of the Oregon Legislature’s 2017 “Keep Oregon Moving” bill, which committed hundreds of millions of dollars to addressing congestion in the state, and directed the Oregon Transportation Commission to pursue and implement tolls on I-5 and I-205 in the Portland region.

There is currently an ongoing debate on where revenues raised from tolling would be spent. The legislation adopted by lawmakers only required that it be used for projects to address congestion, though Broussard said there are discussions about whether revenues from tolls on a stretch of freeway should be used only for traffic improvements to that specific corridor. 

The I-205 project will include widening the freeway between Stafford Road near the I-5 interchange and the Abernathy Bridge in Oregon City.

This image shows the planned area for tolling on I-205 in Oregon. Image courtesy Oregon Dept. of Transportation
This image shows the planned area for tolling on I-205 in Oregon. Image courtesy Oregon Dept. of Transportation

ODOT is in the midst of a 45-day public comment period on the I-205 tolling project, which runs through Sept. 16.

Tolls have often been criticized as a regressive tax, meaning they disproportionately impact poor communities. Hot lanes in the Seattle area, which require payment to use and increase in cost during times of heavy traffic, are seen as largely benefiting only those who can afford it.

Broussard says that’s why ODOT is especially keen on hearing from minority and underserved communities about how they feel tolling can work for, rather than against them.

“Equity exists somewhere, but we haven’t defined it,” said Broussard. “There isn’t even a base to start with.”

A draft timeline for tolling along a portion of I-205 in Oregon. Image courtesy Oregon Dept. of Transportation
A draft timeline for tolling along a portion of I-205 in Oregon. Image courtesy Oregon Dept. of Transportation

The equity process for the I-5 tolling project will begin later this year, Broussard said, and then an environmental review process will include more detail. 

The I-205 tolling project is currently slated to reach a decision on a preferred alternative sometime in the next year, with rate setting in 2023, and implementation of tolling likely to begin in 2024.

For more details on both projects, visit ODOT’s Tolling Program website.

Advertisement

About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

Related posts