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In 2017, the Oregon Legislature approved House Bill 2017, known as Keep Oregon Moving. This bill committed hundreds of millions of dollars to projects that will address congestion and improve the transportation system statewide. HB 2017 funded bottleneck relief highway projects, freight rail, transit improvements and bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The bill also directed the Oregon Transportation Commission to pursue and implement tolling I-5 and I-205 in the Portland Metro region to provide additional traffic management tools to further manage congestion.
Tolling will address traffic congestion and mobility challenges in our region. Congestion impacts the economy through delayed movement of goods and services, and compromises reliability and travel time predictability for employers and employees. I-5 and I-205 carry the highest freight volume in the region and these major freight routes experience the highest level of congestion and unreliable travel time. Commuters, business travelers, freight haulers and others now struggle to plan consistent departure and arrival times. From 2015 to 2017 the population grew by 80,000 in the Portland region and drivers experienced a 13 percent increase in the hours of congestion. With projected population growth in the region, congestion will continue to grow. Tolling can help manage how this growth affects our transportation system.
The use of variable rate tolls manages traffic flow and improves roadway efficiency by charging a higher price during peak traffic periods. 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. A small reduction in the number of vehicles on a road can significantly improve travel flow.
The purpose of tolling I-5 and I-205 is to reduce traffic congestion and improve mobility for the region, especially for the trips that depend on the freeway for regional and longer distance travel. Project objectives also include creating a revenue source to help fund bottleneck relief projects. The State of Oregon is exploring tolling as part of a comprehensive approach to better manage congestion in the tri-county metropolitan area.
The term variable rate tolling or 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 fee, typically implemented along with transit improvements, 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. 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. Congestion pricing is a proven tool to manage congestion with approximately 40 pricing projects in operation across the country.
The Oregon Legislature designated I-5 and I-205 for the first study because they are the primary corridors for moving traded goods north and south through Oregon. Managing traffic congestion and mobility through tolling on these highways may result in the most benefit to the most travelers in the region as well as the statewide economy.
We started an environmental review and analysis for I-205 tolling in early 2020, with a final decision expected in 2022. Tolls could be implemented on I-205 as early as 2024. For I-5, we are initiating additional traffic and mobility analysis that will help identify where tolling would begin and end. We anticipate completing this initial analysis by 2021; the results of this analysis will inform the starting timeframe and alternatives for a formal environmental review process.
Rerouting onto non-tolled surface streets could take place with drivers looking to avoid a toll. We also know that some drivers currently reroute to neighborhood streets to avoid congestion. As freeway 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 freeway for freight and longer-distance trips so that surface 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.
Neither the price of tolls nor the exact times of day tolls may be in place have been determined. Those decisions will be based on a variety of factors and policy decisions considered in project development.
No. Fees would be collected electronically so drivers do not have to stop. There are different methods used in tolling systems throughout the world, including the use of transponders, a device that collects fees electronically as you drive, and license plate recognition technology. The most appropriate technology for the Portland metropolitan area will be determined at a later stage. Options for individuals without bank accounts will be studied to provide access to all.
The Keep Oregon Moving legislation (House Bill 2017) established a Congestion Relief Fund which would receive any net proceeds from tolling. 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.
The tolling projects being considered would apply to all drivers who use the highways during tolled periods, regardless of the state of residence, just as it is on other tolled facilities around the world.
We want to ensure that many perspectives are heard to inform the development of both tolling projects. We will engage the public through events, questionnaires, open houses, advisory committees and working groups. To stay involved visit www.oregontolling.org to sign up to receive project notifications or provide comments. Questions can be submitted at any time to the ODOT project team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The latest information about the tolling projects is posted on the project website at www.oregontolling.org.
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