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Tolling and Pricing

Oregon Tolling Policy Development

The 2007 Oregon legislature directed the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) to develop tolling policy recommendations so that if the State decides to pursue tolling, it will have a consistent framework and foundation on which to develop, implement and evaluate potential projects.

In response to this direction, the OTC is taking a deliberate and transparent approach to analyze and understand potential effects of tolling/pricing to determine if and how tolling could be applied in Oregon. The first step was to review and assess potential implications of highway tolling and pricing. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) hired Cambridge Systematics to complete a report and develop a list of potential congestion pricing and tolling applications and types.

The next step was to commission seven white papers to evaluate and understand several technical tolling issues and their implications to motorists, the transportation system and communities in Oregon. The papers were completed in February 2009 and discuss the following concepts:

  1. Can tolling reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
  2. Where, geographically, could tolling work and under what circumstances?
  3. Forecasting change – how do we incorporate tolling and pricing into our regional transportation models?
  4. What are the economics of transportation system reliability?
  5. How does “pricing” urban highway networks affect transportation, people and businesses?
  6. How do you determine if tolling a project is a better alternative than other non-tolled options and how would you choose between a number of tolled alternatives?
  7. Are truck only toll lanes a viable option for Oregon?

The final papers are being presented to transportation stakeholders for feedback in spring of 2009. No decisions are being made at this time. ODOT is gathering information and narrowing the options for a discussion of tolling and pricing in Oregon. The OTC will review stakeholder feedback and then consider if and how pricing should be applied in Oregon.


Tolling and congestion pricing, like many emerging concepts, have evolving definitions of terms which may be used by different people to mean different things. To be clear, we have defined the following terms which are used in the seven white papers and highlights.

Tolling Types

High occupancy toll (HOT) lanes – Travel lanes restricted to either qualifying HOVs or solo drivers willing to pay a toll. The toll typically varies by time of day or traffic levels and is collected electronically.

Managed toll lane - Any toll lane that uses variably priced tolls to maintain superior, less congested travel conditions.

Area/Cordon tolling - Vehicles are charged to travel into or within a high activity center, such as a downtown or business district. Prices may vary by time of day to encourage motorists to enter the zone during less busy times or to use transit.

System tolling - Implementing tolls on all highways and major arterials in a region to reduce congestion, minimize route diversion and increase transportation revenues.

Tolling Approaches

Congestion pricing – An overarching term used to describe measures that reduce congestion by charging drivers tolls that vary by time of day or traffic volumes.

Tolling - Charging a price to use a road, bridge or tunnel.

Flat rate - Toll rates that don’t change.

Variable/dynamic - A toll that changes by time of day, traffic volumes or other factor. Dynamic tolls change in response to real-time conditions.

Electronic tolling - Using technology to collect tolls from drivers without requiring them to stop and make cash payments.


White Paper Topics

Tolling White Paper Process Overview (in PDF format)

Each White Paper is listed below. For each topic you may be interested in, there is also a comment form – please fill it out. Your input and feedback will be used by the Oregon Transportation Commission as it considers next steps.

  1. Air Quality/Greenhouse Gas Emissions White Paper - Highlights: Is pricing the best tool for reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions?
  2. Geographic and Situational Limits White Paper - Highlights: Are there places in Oregon where tolling should not be considered? Are there conditions which should be defined and met for a tolling or pricing project to be successful?
  3. Demand Projection Sufficiency White Paper - Highlights: Are current travel demand models sufficient to effectively evaluate toll projects?
  4. Economic Evaluation of Improved Reliability White Paper - Highlights: How do we define and measure travel time reliability for personal and commercial travel, across a broad application of congestion pricing?
  5. Assessing the Economic Effects of Congestion Pricing White Paper - Highlights: How does “pricing” urban highway networks affect transportation, people and businesses?
  6. Economic Comparison of Alternatives White Paper - Highlights: How do you determine if tolling is a better alternative than other non-tolled options such as adding capacity or transit services?
  7. Truck-Only Toll Lanes White Paper - Highlights: Are truck only toll lanes a viable option for Oregon?

Tolling and Pricing Policy Amendments to the OTP and OHP

Please contact Michael Rock with any comments or questions.