The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, of which NATSO is a founding member urged the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) to abandon plans to toll all lanes of I-205 in the Portland metro region with congestion pricing.
In written comments submitted to the OTC, ATFI strongly opposed tolling all lanes of I-205 in any form or variation.
“As our nation seeks to recover from the devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, tolls will hurt businesses trying to reopen. Hardest hit by tolls will be small businesses and their employees, especially in the immediate area surrounding the I-205 and Interstate 5 (I-5) interchange,” ATFI wrote. “Tolls raise business costs for moving goods through the supply chain, hurting the competitiveness of local companies.
“Evidence suggests that the vast majority of trucks do not respond to congestion pricing because the shippers determine pick-up and delivery times, not the trucking companies,” ATFI said. “Restaurants, convenience stores, travel plazas and gas stations operating near the newly tolled interstate will face higher costs from manufacturers and shippers, who will be forced to charge more to transport goods by truck. Every day consumers will be shouldering the burden by paying more for goods, demonstrating the fact that the toll is nothing more than an underhanded tax on the general public. Efforts to expand tolling on the I-205 and I-5 corridor will reroute prosperity around these communities.”
Even Oregon’s U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio, who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, has said that tolling I-205 is bad for Oregonians. At a House Transportation Subcommittee on Highways and Transit hearing, he said, “Some of the legislators and mayor of Portland have decided, well, maybe we ought to just toll parts of our freeways. But of course it isn’t even going to be like a HOT [High Occupancy Travel] lane. No one is going to have an option. You’ll either use it or not use it. What about diversion? What about people who have to go from the east side of Portland to the west side of Portland to Intel to go to work? Sorry, it’s going to take you two hours or it’s going to cost you a bunch of money you can’t afford.”
Oregon pioneered a vehicle-miles-travelled (VMT) tax in 2012, and the legislature also passed a massive transportation bill in 2017 that committed funds to congestion-pricing tolls. The state launched the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) to pursue tolls on all lanes of I-5 and I-205 in the Portland metro region.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) held a series of online open houses about the I-205 project in August 2020 and asked to hear from the community about the I-205 Toll Project. ATFI submitted public comment in response to this request and to the recently created Equity and Mobility Advisory Committee to address not only the administrative and economic costs of tolls, but also the social costs.
The state has said that a decision on which toll alternative to implement will be made in 2022 based on the analysis conducted, existing policy and guidance, and community and stakeholder engagement, “especially those who currently have limited travel choices based on where they live, their incomes or travel needs,” as they state in the online survey.
It is our hope that by learning the facts about tolling and hearing the vocal opposition from the businesses and families who will be negatively affected by these tolls, the OTC will abandon this ill-advised tolling plan.
ODOT has invited public comment on the I-205 Toll Project until Oct. 16, 2020. Any Oregon organization or citizen can share their comments by emailing oregontolling@odot.
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