‘Why don’t people know about the tolling,’ asks Oregon City resident

Congestion pricing tolling to ‘manage’ traffic isn’t being discussed

State of Oregon officials are moving forward with plans to toll not only I-205 in the vicinity of the Abernethy Bridge near Oregon City, but eventually all of I-205 and all of I-5 “from the border with Washington” to potentially the Boone Bridge near Wilsonville. This is of concern to Southwest Washington citizens and Clark County residents because roughly 75,000 Clark County residents commute to Oregon for work, paying Oregon income taxes.

Lack of citizen input about Oregon’s tolling raises concerns — do the citizens know about it?
Photo from “Value Pricing: Managing traffic congestion on I-5 and I-205” video from ODOT via YouTube

Oregon’s Department of Transportation (ODOT) officials have been hosting a series of community forums on the tolling program, seeking input from citizens. Wednesday was the 11th meeting of the Equity and Mobility Advisory Committee.

An unidentified Oregon City resident expressed concerns that none of the people in her circle know about the tolling. “Nearly every person that I speak to in my personal life, has never heard about the tolling project,’’ the lady told members of the committee. “It just seems that it kind of crept in without really notifying people about it.”

The speaker told the ODOT staffers and consultants that she is concerned because the community isn’t making input and getting involved in the decision-making process.

As is typical in these “listening sessions,” the staff didn’t have an answer for the citizen. With further prompting, she shared more.

“I personally am obviously opposed to a toll,” she said. “But it’s not my choice. I just feel like the community should have more of an ability to be involved, and no one is being notified of this.”

“Why is it not on the news that Oregon is moving to tolling systems,” she asked. “Why isn’t it in the newspaper? Why isn’t it in the community newsletters that go out? It feels like it’s being done pretty much secretly, from a citizens standpoint.”

Earlier this week, Vancouver Councilor Bart Hansen shared with Clark County Today that he is surprised he’s not hearing more from Vancouver residents about the tolling “congestion mitigation” issue, both for the Interstate Bridge program and the regional tolling plan Oregon is undertaking.

“Silence is consent,” he said. Hansen shared his concerns that people are unaware they may be paying more than one toll

“When you explain to folks you can pay a toll to go over the bridge, and then when you cross to the other side, you will pay into congestion mitigation,” he said. “Well, hold on. You mean, I’m not just gonna get charged for crossing the bridge? No, that’s just the beginning.”

Hansen made it clear during the Vancouver City Council meeting he is opposed to congestion mitigation (congestion pricing of toll lanes). He does not oppose a flat toll to help pay for the bridge if needed.

Oregon has not yet decided which of many possible types of tolling might be implemented. It could be a flat fee for crossing the Abernethy Bridge. ODOT plans to widen the bridge and then add one new lane on I-205 to Stafford Road. 

ODOT is also discussing “congestion pricing,” which increases the cost to drive on a segment of road during high traffic times. The concept is to change people’s behavior, encouraging people to travel at other times to avoid the high fares, or to use transit. Roads are congested 12 hours a day in the metro area.

The Oregon Legislature opened the door for tolling in HB 2017, signed into law in the summer of 2017. It asked ODOT to study tolling “from the border” with Washington. Ultimately, Oregon is planning tolls for “congestion management” on all area freeways, including I-5, I-205, I-84, I-405, US 26, and OR 217.

ODOT’s Don Hamilton talked about “behavior modification” when the program was initially proposed. “Congestion pricing is an array of tools to increase charges on the road,” he said in a Jan. 2018 interview with Clark County Today.

Citizens have many concerns about the I-205 tolling project. Oregon expects to widen the Abernethy Bridge and then add a new lane between the bridge and Stafford Rd. There are a few options under consideration on how they might implement tolling. Graphic courtesy of ODOT
Citizens have many concerns about the I-205 tolling project. Oregon expects to widen the Abernethy Bridge and then add a new lane between the bridge and Stafford Rd. There are a few options under consideration on how they might implement tolling. Graphic courtesy of ODOT

The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program (IBRP) has shared they expect tolls to be part of the finance plan to pay for an expected $4 billion to $5 billion price tag to replace the bridge. Those tolls would be in addition to any tolls Oregon collects for driving on I-5 or I-205.

Two options were chosen by ODOT to advance in their I-205 program last fall. You can read more here.

In its March newsletter on their proposed tolling program for the Portland metro area, ODOT said the following:

Tolling is a widely used industry term to describe road pricing programs. It is worth clarifying upfront that ODOT is using ‘tolling’ as an umbrella term for the program, which is expected to include various types of tolling such as congestion pricing (also known as variable rate pricing), and other applications needed to generate revenue and manage congestion.

The two toll projects underway have a dual purpose: manage congestion and generate revenue. We are working to identify a balanced toll rate that enhances traffic flow while generating revenue for transportation improvements. A toll that is too low won’t manage congestion well. A toll that is too high leads to too many highway drivers using local streets. With a balanced toll more people benefit from improved travel on the highway and throughout the region.

In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, it may not be surprising that citizens have not heard about Oregon’s tolling program. But for those who want to learn more, you can read multiple Clark County Today articles here, here, here, and here in addition to those linked above.


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    John Jr.

    As a company that has trucks passing over all of the bridges they are talking about tolling, I truly hope they make tolling $ 1000.00 at each toll. Since we just pass the cost onto the public, it will just raise the cost of everything else.

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    Bob Tallman

    Just heard of this. I’m an Oregonian and those Highway’s are Federal, built with Federal dollars. How can Oregon tax those?

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        Well Ron, as Dave so succinctly responded, your No. OR goobermint intentionally is conducting a stealth onerous tax increase on northern drivers. As a politician stated, “Silence is consent” and the best tool for govt tyranny is to increase taxation tyranny under the sham of “community input”. They do not follow their own rules, you may follow, and pay, blindly as you desire.

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      John P Ley

      Bob –

      There was brief discussion and publicity when the Oregon legislature passed this and the Governor signed it into law in July 2017.

      Silence followed until ODOT created a 25-member “Value Pricing” Policy Advisory Committee (PAC). There were six meetings over roughly an 8 month period where ODOT and their paid consultants manipulated the process. They created 8 “options”, and at their 1st opportunity eliminated the one ‘option’ that actually reduced traffic congestion the most. Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas was the real warrior of those six meetings, trying to fight for common sense.

      ODOT has now created multiple committees to discuss “equity” and provide for community input. But especially in the midst of COVID-19, everything else becomes “noise” in the news for the past 18 months.

      Thanks for reading this.

      You should weigh in with your state legislators. You should write letters to the editor. You should go to the ODOT Tolling website. Note the coming meetings, and sign up to offer “public comment”.

      At this past meeting, roughly 18 people were watching/participating. I’m guessing at least 12 of them were either ODOT staff members or paid consultants and the members of the “committee”. Yet only TWO citizens offered “public comment”.

      Share this story with your friends and neighbors. Help us spread the word! Thanks.

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      The feds turned over the maintenance of federal highways to the state governments decades ago. The feds pay the state money to maintain them as long as the state follows all the federal requirements on their projects to maintain the highways. I do agree that it’s weird to make us pay to drive on roads we already pay taxes to maintain and collectively own.

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      Dave Farmer

      Long and complicated story. Uncle Sam gave OR an exception. Still not a done deal. PA beat truckers at SCOTUS on a technicality . Probably won’t hold up for OR. Tell all your local government people. How you feel and spread the word. We need an ally in media.

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    First you pay through the nose for the government to build the roads then they make you pay through the nose again to use the roads you already paid for. Criminal, in my humble opinion.

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    Richard Nepon

    Congestion tolling doesn’t appear to take into consideration that folks will take non toll roads and increase traffic on side roads to evade tolls. Not many are likely to change times they use the toll roads.

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      John P Ley

      Richard —

      ODOT is ignoring that reality.

      They told the “Value Pricing” Policy Advisory Committee 3 years ago, that when TOLLS were implemented on both I-5 and I-205, they expect a total of 130,000 vehicles to divert onto side roads to avoid the tolls.

      They’re not being honest and forthright about that reality.

      The Canby City Council pushed back last fall, in briefings by ODOT. Tim Dale said: “You’re actually going to make things worse!” He was 100% correct. But ODOT continues to push forward, because their bosses and the politicians demand a new source of money, in spite of the consequences.

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    Terry Tomaszewski

    Between Oregon City and Wilsonville going south and Oregon City over the Abernethy bridge to I-5 going north, there are not a lot of alternative options. I use these routes often due to my work. Often, it is not my choice to use these routes. I have to use my personal vehicle for my work so I personally will incur the charges. I likely won’t get reimbursed. If surface street options were better, more local people would take them.

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      Sherril Daniels

      The few alternative routes in the Stafford triangle. Feel sorry for those out there that will get heavy traffic.

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        Why is no one mentioning the bridge between Oregon City and West Linn that is the ONLY alternative bridge to 205 / ABERNATHY and already has congestion issues on front and back ends? Will pedestrians need to be killed for them to see they are putting too much alternative traffic into crowded pedestrian areas? I guess so!

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    Michael C

    One great side effect of the pandemic was driving Oregon companies to allow work from home.

    I make 150k in Portland and got an 8% raise by selling my house to an investment firm and moving to better home in Vancouver.

    I won’t be crossing the bridge ever again.

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    Another brick in the wall

    This is not behaviour modification, most drivers have no choice what time of the day they drive on the roads, that is dictated by their employers. All this is, will be an income generator for the State of Oregon, tax and spend and doesn’t really require the public’s input, as it really has already been decide once the idea is presented. If you don’t like put other people in office that won’t sit there to just decide how to tax you more.

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    Chris Phillips

    Bro so taxes from marijuana are not enough? Tolls waste time for those on a schedule, cause caterers to lose food ect. Waste of human resources waste of time.

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      Aaron Smith

      This is bullshit, how about people who work DoorDash like myself? Now the tolling stations will be backed up. You try explaining to DoorDash why all their independent contractors will be fired due to “extremely late orders” which are contract violations. Buncha bullshit, and as usual, not really caring what the general public thinks. They may ask for our input, but they sure as hell won’t listen.

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        There will not be stations. I am pretty sure they will use cameras just like their dysfunctional sister Seattle.

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    If they enact this, I guess we will stay in Washington and not spend and more of our money in Oregon. Highway tolls are a resort of lazy politicians.

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    So make the people who travel to work pay to use the road. Gonna be a lot of people diverting to other ways. I barely make ends meet no I have to pay to use the same road I’ve been using. No. Not a good idea your only hirting the working. No benefit to us

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      Paul Edgar

      There are not any alternative options for 50 miles to get across the Willamette River for most all of the people of Clackamas County, and the City’s of West Linn, Oregon City, Gladstone, Canby, and Molalla, unless drive to Portland and use the Sellwood Bridge. There is a narrow Historic Oregon City – West Linn Bridge and if they are successful in Tolling the Abernathy Bridge , diverted traffic, quadruple what it is now will congest the City of Oregon City Historic Downtown to a point where it will kill its businesses. This Tolling/Congestion Pricing is like a COVID Virus and if it is not stopped, the 75,000 commuters from Clark County will be paying for more than a Toll, into this, if the equity and mobility advisory committee get your money to pay for the lack of equity and fairness to the under-served communities. That will be on top of the Oregon Income Tax. This Tolling Virus will mutate and you will see it everywhere if we do not kill it right now. In Oregon, we are forming an Initiative Referendum Committee, so watch up and get ready to help fund this Initiative, and pay now or pay later, and if you choose later remember it will be forever.

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    pete masterson

    I live in Ridgefield and only occasionally travel into Oregon. After the Antifa/BLM riots in Portland, I have ceased going to Portland for cultural events and occasional specialty shopping. I previously have done occasional business in Salem, but I plan to find vendor(s) in Clark County to replace those contacts. You see, I don’t NEED to go to Oregon. So, if Oregon is concerned about congestion (after 25 years of starving their road budget to support their money-losing transit services), then their businesses don’t “need” my patronage. That will “solve” the congestion problem if others alter their behavior as I intend to alter mine.

    (Note, If WA gets stupid and adds new taxes (such as their “capital gains” income tax), all I can say is that Florida is beginning to look like a nice place to live. (Note I escaped from California in 2012, I was hoping that WA was less self-destructive. Perhaps I was wrong.)

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    This is an absolute embarrassment. We pay an outrageous amount of money in taxes, to drive on some of the worst roads in the country, to park in a city where are car windows get smashed for fun, or are cars get stolen for fun, and they want to charge us to drive on the roads. How about you so something about Delta Park if you have so much money to waste.

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    Joyce bonds

    We should vote on this!! The middle and low income people will suffer the most . We don’t think it will help congestion. You have to go to work!!!

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    Though ODOT has sa8d the eatimati9n is not correct, basic math using their numbers say that ar $2.20 per bridge crossing, if you manage to hit 2 of those between Willson illegal and Vancouver, and using the upper of their proposed 17-38 cents per mile,
    That indeed that round trip from willsonville to Vancouver WA, 70 miles could cost in excess of $30 in tolls. Using 38 cents a mile actually passes $35. Basic math 70×0.38+2.2×4=35.40

    Stating that peoples interpretation of what those tolls could amase to is invalid is not helpfull when those projections are clearly based on ODOats own information,
    Currently ODOT on the low end of 17 cents a mile is estimating that trip will cost drivers $20 in tolls. For commuters that means 1-2 hours of their work day they are working just to be able to get to work. So instead of a 40 hour work week they are now essentially will only 30 hours of take home pay. That’s a fairly large chunk of a weekly pay check.


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