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Frequently Asked Questions




Whether it's a business moving goods, a daily commuter going to work, or a parent taking their child to see a doctor, Oregonians rely on our transportation system to get to—and through—the metro region. Unfortunately, our transportation system isn't keeping up. Hours of delay and traffic congestion come at a high cost to individuals, businesses, and communities. Our system is vulnerable to a major earthquake and we face a $510 million shortfall annually just to maintain the existing state system.

Now is the time to modernize our regional transportation system and the way we use it.

We are investing in transit, bicycle, and pedestrian facilities and changing how we manage roads for safety and traffic flow. Variable-rate tolling – also known as “congestion pricing" -- is another necessary tool to fix our transportation system. Variable-rate tolls lead to more reliable trips and address traffic congestion in the metro region, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and fund bottleneck-relief projects. ​​

​We plan to use variable-rate tolls to manage traffic flow and improve roadway efficiency by charging a higher price during peak traffic periods. “Congestion pricing” or “value pricing” are other terms used frequently when describing this concept. The higher fee encourages some drivers to consider using other travel options (such as carpools or transit) or change their travel time to other, less congested times of the day, or not make the trip at all. If a small percentage of highway users choose another mode of travel or time of travel it can reduce traffic congestion for those who can’t modify their trip and improve traffic flow for the entire system. In the Portland metro region, we are considering a predictable way of tolling where toll rates would vary according to a set schedule so that you would know the cost in advance. ​

The State of Oregon is exploring tolling as part of a comprehensive approach to better manage congestion in the Portland metro region. In​ 2017, the Oregon Legislature approved House B​ill 2017, known as Keep Oregon Moving. In 2021, the Legislature adopted another bill, HB 3055, which clarified and reinforced the transportation direction from HB 2017. These bills commit hundreds of millions of dollars to projects that will manage traffic congestion and improve the transportation system statewide, including improvements to highways, the freight network, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The bills also directed the Oregon Transportation Commission to pursue and implement tolling I-5 and I-205 in the Portland metro region for traffic congestion management and transportation improvements.  ​

Neither the price of tolls nor the exact times of day tolls would be collected have been determined. We do know any tolls collected in the Portland metro region will vary according to a set schedule, and that tolls will be higher during peak travel periods. The Oregon Transportation Commissio​n will set toll rates based on congestion relief goals, revenue needs, and public input. Toll rates are generally set about six months before tolls begin. ​

Tolling is a vital funding element for Legislature-directed priority projects in the Portland metro region. Toll revenue from the I-205 Toll Project is needed to complete construction of the I-205 Improvements Project​, including seismic improvements and the extension of a third lane in each direction. Other projects that may be funded partially by toll revenue include: ​

  • I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project, including highway and other improvements for walking and biking.
  • I-5 Boone Bridge Seismic Improvement Project.
  • Implementation of the Toll Program, which includes the costs of project-identified mitigation.
  • Other operational improvements on I-5 or I-205 or adjacent facilities along the corridor.

The Oregon Constitution (Article IX, Section 3a) specifies that revenues collected from the use or operation of motor vehicles is spent on roadway projects, which could include construction or reconstruction of travel lanes, as well as bicycle and pedestrian facilities or transit improvements in or along the roadway. In addition, the cost of projects or services needed to address negative effects of tolling could be paid using toll revenue. For example, if a local roadway was made less safe by drivers rerouting to avoid a toll, it could be upgraded with improved sidewalks, bike facilities and traffic calming measures to discourage rerouting and preserve neighborhood livability.  ​

No. Tolls would be collected electronically so drivers would not have to slow or stop. Tolling systems throughout the world use different collection methods,​ including the use of transponders (a device that collects tolls electronically as you drive) and license plate recognition technology. These systems usually connect to a prepaid account. The most appropriate technology for the Portland metro region will be determined at a later stage. Options for individuals without bank accounts will be studied to provide access to all.​

We are planning for the long-term and looking out 25 years. As the regional economy reopens, the number of vehicles is increasing. Traffic has already returned to about 90% of pre-pandemic levels. We anticipate traffic congestion to quickly return to pre-pandemic levels as people resume commuting to work and school.

Traffic congestion affects our regional economy through unpredictable travel times for freight, services, employers, and workers. In addition, funding is not keeping up with the rising costs to maintain roadways and make upgrades for earthquake safety.

I-5 and I-205 carry most of the freight traffic in the region; these major freight routes experience the highest levels of congestion and unreliable travel times. From 2015 to 2017, the Portland metro region's population grew by approximately 80,000, and drivers experienced a 13% increase in hours of traffic congestion.​

Tolls could start as early as 2024 on the I-205 corridor, near the Abernethy and Tualatin River bridges in Clackamas County. A final decision is expected in late 2022 after we finish the environmental review.

For the Regional Mobility Pricing Project, which includes I-5 and other sections of I-205 in Portland metro region, we are evaluating options to identify where tolling would begin and end. We anticipate completing this initial analysis in 2022 and then conducting a more extensive environmental review in 2023. The earliest tolling on these corridors could begin is 2025.​​

We are not currently evaluating additional corridors. Any future analysis of additional corridors would build on our current work on I-5 and I-205. ​

Yes. The tolls being considered would apply to all drivers who use the highways during tolled periods, regardless of the state of residence, just as they are on other tolled facilities around the world. Users of tolled facilities would pay for the trip they take. ​​

​This is still to be determined. The Interstate Bridge will be replaced, and the concepts under evaluation assume the new bridge will be tolled. (For more information, go to interstatebridge.org.) Any tolls on the new bridge would be integrated into the tolling concept for I-5 so that users would not be overcharged when using both facilities.

The bi-state Glenn Jackson Bridge itself is not within the Project study area, but the segment of I-205 immediately south of the bridge is. We don't know if this segment south of the bridge would be tolled; that will be further studied in the current planning phase.​

Users would be tolled each time they use a tolled facility and would pay only for the trip they take on I-5 and I-205. ODOT is working with the Interstate Bridge program administrator to make sure that project and the Oregon Toll Program are well coordinated. ​

Yes. In 2022, ODOT will report to the Legislature how equitable income-based tolls will be established.​ We are working with people who could be negatively affected by a toll to better understand community needs and concerns. This includes people who experience low incomes and those historically and currently excluded and underserved by the transportation system. We are working with local and national equity leaders and have created a framework to guide development of the tolling projects to improve access to travel choices for all demographics.

We will explore equity-focused strategies used in other parts of the country, including cash payment options for people without bank accounts, rebates or discounts for different income levels, and integrating benefits between travel modes, such as transit passes that accumulate toll credits. Input from the community and the toll programs' Equity and Mobility Advisory Committee will be critical to identifying these strategies. The Oregon Transportation Commission, as the toll authority, will use this input to make decisions. ​

We know that some drivers currently use neighborhood streets to avoid congestion on highways. Drivers looking to avoid a toll could also change driving patterns onto non-tolled local streets.​ Changes to rerouting patterns onto non-tolled local streets could take place with drivers looking to avoid a toll. As highway travel becomes more reliable, and transit service more accessible, a positive result of variable rate tolling would be to reduce existing rerouting. Overall, the objective of variable rate tolling is to improve mobility by managing the highway for freight and longer-distance trips so that local streets can better serve shorter, local trips. The next phase of work will include additional analysis of rerouting and explore solutions in partnership with local agencies and governments.​

The term "congestion pricing" describes a type of tolling that aims to improve mobility, travel times, and reliability by charging a higher price during peak traffic periods. The higher feetypically implemented along with transit and other multimodal improvementsencourages some drivers to consider using other travel options such as carpools or transit, or change their travel time to other, less congested times of the day, or not make the trip at all. Only a small percentage of highway users choosing another mode of travel or time of travel it can reduce traffic congestion for those who can't modify their trip and improve traffic flow for the entire system.

Toll projects under consideration in the Portland metro region would use congestion pricing. Congestion pricing is a proven tool to manage congestion. About 40 congestion pricing projects are operating across the United States.​​

Yes. We are working to identify toll rates that minimize congestion and negative rerouting to local streets, and maximize travel benefits for toll payers and local street users while generating revenue for infrastructure improvements. Too low of a toll doesn't address traffic congestion, but too high of a toll leads to negative rerouting to other streets; therefore, fewer people gain benefits.​

​Yes. Congestion pricing (using variable-rate tolls) is an effective tool for supporting climate-change goals. Tolling the region's most congested highways will improve traffic flow and reduce vehicle idling in traffic on the highway. This will, in turn, reduce tailpipe emissions and greenhouse gas emissions for these vehicles. Tolling may also encourage some drivers to shift to modes of travel (such as carpooling, taking public transit, or biking) that generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions such as carpooling, taking public transit, or biking. Whether this reduces overall transportation greenhouse gas emissions also depends on how many other drivers divert to alternative longer and less efficient routes to avoid tolls.

We recognize that climate change is an urgent issue and threatens our quality of life and environment. The Oregon Toll Program will evaluate the potential effects on greenhouse gas emissions during project planning phases and will incorporate project features to help Oregon meet its climate-change goals.​

​Yes. We are assessing tolling alternatives based on how the regional transportation network will look in the future, not how it looks today. We are relying on Metro’s regional travel demand model for our analysis. The regional model assumes that transportation projects (such as the I-5 Rose Quarter Project and others defined in the Regional Transportation Plan) will be completed by 2045 – our future forecast year for the analysis. By relying on the regional model and Regional Transportation Plan, our traffic analysis will be consistent with projects and account for projects already underway or soon to be initiated in the region.​

The latest information about the toll projects is posted on the project website at www.oregontolling.org. Questions can be submitted at any time to the ODOT project team at oregontolling@odot.state.or.us.​​

   

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