Tolling and Diversion is Coming

Ready or not, like it or not, believe it or not, pave first – pay later tolling on I-205 and I-5 and diversion is coming to our city, county and region.

Tolling has benefits, it also has costs. Oregon House bill 2017 passed in 2017 as part of the Oregon state transportation act charged the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to establish tolling on freeways to manage congestion, deal with climate change and generate revenue to pay for improvements. Bottom line is any user of the freeways will pay to use I-5 (Boone Bridge to Columbia River Interstate bridge) and I-205 (I-5 to the Glenn Jackson Bridge). Tolling could begin as early as late 2024 on I-205 and I-5 later.

There have been innumerable meetings and presentations from ODOT to local governments and resident groups. Two items stand out. First, ODOT has not prepared a one-page summary of dollar inflows and outflows for the above three projects (including mitigation). Second, it appears no local government is preparing specific lists of needed mitigation projects.

Lake Oswego and other local government staffs have been working hard behind the scene. All are waiting to hear from ODOT what the anticipated impacts will be from the tolling.  ODOT hasn’t given jurisdictions specific details, and therefore no mitigation measures. Instead, ODOT says analysis is continuing and local government simply wait. Both responses are not acceptable. It strains belief with all the capable people working for or under contract with ODOT that there is no DRAFT one-page summary. While at the same time recognizing all the detail and nuance that goes into the material presented. What tolling and diversion does is changing the timing of the trip(s), the destination, how to get to the destination, trips not made (teleworking) and its impact to non-freeway roads. People divert for two reasons – time and money. Diversion for time is already in place. Diversion due to tolls is coming.

What can Lake Oswego and other elected officials from the various cities do? One, ask for a one-page summary in addition to the usual material presented. Two, don’t wait for ODOT to identify what they are willing to do. Tell ODOT these are the projects we want. Projects like bike/pedestrian enhancements, intersection improvements, additional off highway bus stops, seismic improvements, addition of a third freeway lane on I-205 from Oregon City to Stafford Road, etc.

There are many ways to describe tolling. Modeling with assumptions about diversion, time of day travel, different means of travel, equity, infrastructure improvements, land use etc. It does not make sense that ODOT has been at this for five years and can’t prepare a one-page summary of estimated cost range of the major projects and how they will be paid for (including tolling rates) while at the same time acknowledging it’s a draft and there is nuance and trade-off. The tolling impact is the same – to manage congestion and raise money to pay for improvements from diversion,

Make no mistake, whether it is diversion due to tolling or increases in population in the area, traffic on non-freeway roads will be increasing. It is not a question of if. The question is one of mitigation.

For Lake Oswego and other local governments, the goal must be to manage the unavoidable so that we can avoid the unmanageable. There are no solutions, only trade-offs. Regardless of what trade-off selected, it will require mitigation infrastructure. What can be done? Here are suggestions.

  • Buy land or conservation easements along Rosemont and Stafford Road. Funds are available to do so. Not moving forward on parking and ADA improvements in the recently acquired Stevens 5 acres frees up cash as does sharing the bond premium from the recent voter approved school district bond measure.
  • Work with the county to keep Stafford/McVey and Rosemont as 2 lane highways. Argue against proposals to make Stafford/McVey and Rosemont 4 lane highways.
  • Lobby for the use of mitigation dollars bike/pedestrian enhancements, intersection improvements, additional off highway bus stops, seismic improvements, etc for pedestrian and bike enhancements on Rosemont and Stafford.
  • Focus on building up (with Lake Oswego standards), not out in the Foothills commercial and light industrial area.
  • Lobby for ODOT to bring Highway 43, an orphan state highway, up to city standards and transfer ownership of Highway 43 to the various cities.

As always – no solutions, only trade-offs of costs and benefits. In other words…nuance. This requires making judgements that balance competing interests. In other words… Now is the time to have a summary of the tolling projects and developing a list of desired mitigations.

765 words (limit 550 words)
Past Member – Lake Oswego City Council 2011 – 2018

Please note the column is a reflection of my views and not necessarily those of the City Council

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