Southwest Washington lawmakers oppose new tolling bill for I-5 bridge replacement project

Washington State House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow tolling on the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project between Vancouver and Portland, but some lawmakers are concerned about the potential toll burden on Washington residents who already pay Oregon income taxes.
File photo

Senate Bill 5765 would open the door for tolling on the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project

The Washington State House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 5765 on Tuesday, which would open the door for tolling on the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project between Vancouver and Portland.

The bill would allow for tolls to be set by mutual agreement between the two state Transportation Commissions, and a toll account would be created for toll revenues.

18th District Reps. Greg Cheney, R-Battle Ground and Stephanie McClintock, R-Vancouver, 17th District Reps. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver and Kevin Waters, R-Stevenson, and 20th District Reps. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama and Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia all voted against the bill.

Cheney sponsored an amendment to exempt Washington state residents who pay Oregon income taxes. He says Clark County is one of Oregon’s largest tax contributors.

“Clark County residents have paid about $2.2 billion in Oregon state income taxes over the past 10 years as they commute to Oregon for work,” said Cheney. “Layering on another form of taxation in the form of tolls is unreasonable and unnecessary. My amendment would have brought a sense of fairness to local commuters and prevented this form of double taxation. Unfortunately, the majority party voted it down.”

Cheney also thinks Clark County residents need to be aware of the potential tolling points as some commuters could end up being charged a toll even if they don’t cross the bridge.

“As written, the bill authorizes tolling south of State Route 500 which incorporates exits to downtown Vancouver as well as State Route 14. These could end up being tolling access points,” said Cheney. “Thus, it is entirely possible that many drivers would be forced to pay a toll to pay for a bridge that they’re not crossing. This is wrong and something that needs to be addressed.”

In addition to the amendment from Cheney, House Republicans offered six other amendments in an attempt to improve the bill, but only two were adopted, both from McClintock. One would direct the Washington tolling authority to require toll rates that specifically cover the Interstate 5 Columbia River bridge without subsidizing other Oregon toll facilities.

The other would require the toll rates to not be set at a rate that exceeds the highest toll rate allowed on any of the other toll facilities in Washington.

“I’m happy these two amendments were accepted to make this policy better by inserting some guardrails to protect Washingtonians. However, the constituents in the 18th district that I represent are not supportive of tolling which makes me a no vote on this bill,” said McClintock.

According to the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program Administrator, Greg Johnson, who represents both Washington and Oregon for the project, tolling is expected to begin in mid to late 2026, and bridge completion is expected by late 2031 at the latest.

The legislation states that tolling could not begin until the Washington Transportation Secretary determines there is a sufficient federal funding plan in place, sufficient state and local funds available to complete the bridge replacement project, and a bi-state agreement has taken effect.

The lawmakers expressed uneasiness that Washington residents are going to bear the brunt of the tolls.

“I am concerned that authorizing tolling for this project results in Washington residents paying a higher proportion of the costs – when they are already paying an unfair tax to Oregon,” said Orcutt.

The estimated cost of the project which spans a 5-mile corridor, is $5 billion to $7.5 billion, with the likely cost being about $6 billion. Funding is expected to come from several sources, including grants, $1 billion in funding from each state, up to $3 billion from the federal government, and $1.2 billion from tolling. The actual cost of the individual toll is still unknown.

Additionally, according to Johnson, it would likely be up to the Washington State Legislature and the Washington State Transportation Commission to determine whether the tolls would continue after the bridge is completed.

“The I-5 bridge replacement project is vital to everyone that uses the I-5 corridor, especially residents of Clark County,” added McClintock. “So, it’s imperative we get this project right for the people it will affect the most.”

Because the bill was amended, it will now go back to the Senate for concurrence, before being sent to the governor.

Information provided by Washington State House Republicans

Should voters have the opportunity to voice their opinion on the proposed tolling plan linked to the I-5 Bridge replacement project?*
326 votes

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  1. jim

    As someone who is left of Bernie Sanders…, I agree with the other side of the isle on this one. Washingtonians already pay more than their far share to Oregon.

  2. Margaret Tweet

    Deadline for public to comment on I-205 Tolls 4 pm Friday April 21st.
    The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has submitted a request to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) asking for permission to TOLL all lanes of a portion of I-205. This is just the start. ODOT is in planning stages to place variable rate tolls on all lanes of all Portland metro area freeways. The ultimate goal is to toll I-84, I-205, I-5, I-405, OR 26 (the Sunset Highway) and Hwy 217 in Beaverton.

    As part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) review process, the public must be given the opportunity to make input, which the FHWA will review.

    Here is the I-205 TOLLING survey. Deadline 4 PM on Friday April 21st to complete the survey. The survey is part of the Environmental Impact Statement process.

    The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program plans to charge tolls to cross the Columbia River on both I-5 and I-205 according to research of Cascade Policy Institute.
    “By the end of 2025, ODOT expects to impose tolls along the entire lengths of both I-5 and I-205 from Wilsonville to the Washington state border. After that, the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program plans to charge tolls to cross the Columbia River on both I-5 and I-205. …Federal law allows anyone to comment on an Environmental Assessment. If the FHWA receives sufficient comments that demonstrate the negative impacts of ODOT’s tolling plan, then the agency may not approve the tolling plan.
    If you wish to comment, send your comments to with “EA comments” in the subject line. The deadline for comments to be considered is this Friday, April 21, by 4:00 pm. 
    The ODOT website also directs people who want to comment to a multi-lingual online form:
    “Electronic comments: If you wish to submit an official comment on the I-205 Toll Project Environmental Assessment electronically, please use this multi-lingual online comment form. If your comment includes an attachment, you may email it to with ‘EA comments’ in the subject line. All comments must be submitted by April 21, 2023, 4:00 p.m. to be considered.”
    full article Time to Sound-Off on ODOT’s Tolling Proposal
    This article by Portland economist Joe Cortright explains more about the secretive tolling plans ODOT has formulated for double tolling including “per mile” toll for driving I-5 or I-205.
    Opinion: Driving between Vancouver and Wilsonville at 5 p.m.? ODOT plans to charge you $15

    Toll rates in WA on the SR 520 bridge between Seattle and east side, pay by the axle.
    SR 520 Bridge tolling rates
    Toll rates increase over time, the unelected tolling commission decided to
    Raise the toll rates on SR 520 bridge starting July 2023 by 15%

  3. John Ley

    TOLLING is a hugely inefficient means to raise money for transportation projects. Traditionally, road and bridge projects have been paid for by the gas tax, which has just under a 1 percent cost of collection.

    In Washington state, the I-405/SR-167 tolling system had a 68 percent cost of collection in 2021 (the most recent year reported by WSDOT). Prior to that, it was 43 percent of money collected went to the cost of collection. That is outrageous.

    Furthermore, the entire Washington state tolling system has had to be bailed out with General Fund taxes by the state legislature, for the past 3 years.

    In fact WSDOT has reported that the SR-99 tunnel in Seattle (Big Bertha) is expected to be under water for 30 years and will need to be permanently bailed out.

    Sadly, democrats in the state legislature choose to ignore these realities and simply want to get their hands on a new source of the people’s money.

  4. John Ley

    TOLLING will cause HUGE numbers of vehicles to divert to avoid the financial pain. ODOT admitted in 2018 they expect 130,000 vehicles to divert on to side roads and into neighborhoods, once tolls are placed on ALL Portland area freeways.

    Because there will be DOUBLE tolls to use the Interstate Bridge to go into Oregon (one for the bridge and a separate “per mile” toll for driving on the freeway), thousands of Clark County drivers will divert and use I-205 and the Glenn Jackson Bridge. The bridge will NOT have a separate toll.

    This will cause huge problems on our east-west transportation corridors, which are already full and congested. People will then use Waze and other apps to zig-zag through neighborhoods, reducing safety and adding to congestion problems.

    Even more maddening is the fact that the Interstate Bridge Replacement program admits their current “solution” via the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) will cause travel times to DOUBLE for the morning, southbound commute. It will take 60 minutes in 2045 to go from Salmon Creek to the Fremont Bridge, up from 29 minutes today.

    Even worse, they project that HALF of rush hour traffic will be stuck going ZERO to 20 MPH, again double the current percentage of traffic traveling that slow.

    The IBR is a huge waste of taxpayer money. They are currently projecting that MAX light rail extension will cost up to $2 billion, for which the federal government will contribute “at most” 50 percent. That means TOLLS will be subsidizing the alleged construction of a 3-mile light rail extension into Clark County.

    1. Margaret Tweet

      Also maddening that Clark County voters have rejected light rails at the ballot box in 2012 and 2013. Kudos to the legislators from the 17th, 18th, and 20th districts, and the the Clark County Council for honoring the Clark County voters! When CTRAN transit agency put forth a ballot proposition to extend light rail from Portland into Clark County in 2012, every city in Clark County and the limited county area allowed to vote rejected the proposition. Again in 2013, voters rejected light rail at the ballot box, asking for a public vote BEFORE any funds be spent on light rail. The relentless push for light rail continues in spite of all this.

      Clearly the TriMet/Metro complex is seeking a foothold in Clark County. Will they take Clark County property for light rail and parking lots thru eminent domain to extend voter-rejected light rail into Clark County? Will a new Metro Tax be levied for the light rail extension?

      Light rail is not what the locals prefer according to public votes. Very glad to see these representatives listening to Clark County residents.

  5. MetaWorld2

    Good Lord! I am old enough to remember paying Tolls back in the 50’s! Now we are gonna Toll the same bridge AGAIN to pay for the new one? Honestly?

    If Oregon had not wasted so much of Federal Monies back when we went through this discussion last time we could have had the $$$ and The Bridge Carte Blanc!


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