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Our outdated transportation system requires us to take action and make improvements. We are investing in transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities and changing how we manage roads for safety and traffic flow. Tolling is another necessary tool to fix our transportation system. Tolls bring more reliable trips and address congestion in the metro region, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and fund bottleneck-relief projects. We know Oregonians across the state need to get to and through the Metro region – and right now our regional transportation system isn't keeping up. Hours of delay and congestion come at a high cost to individuals, businesses, and communities. In 2020, traffic counts declined with the COVID-19 pandemic but are now back to about 90% of pre-pandemic levels and expected to return to 2019 levels as the economy improves.
Across the United States, nearly 40 programs using tolls are in operation to manage congestion. Variable-rate tolls manage traffic flows and improve roadway efficiency by charging a higher price during peak traffic periods, usually during morning and afternoon commutes.
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 area, we are considering a predictable way of tolling where toll
rates vary according to a set schedule so 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
area. 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 manage congestion and improve the transportation system statewide,
including highway improvement projects, freight rail, transit improvements, and
bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The bill also directed – but did not fund – the
Oregon Transportation Commission to pursue and implement tolling I-5 and I-205
in the Portland metro area for congestion management and transportation
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 area will vary according to a set schedule. The
Oregon Transportation Commission 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 projects in the ODOT's Comprehensive Congestion Management and Mobility Plan. The plan includes Legislature-directed projects in the Portland Metro area. 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:
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 do not have to slow or stop. There are different methods used in
tolling systems throughout the world, 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 area 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 more people become vaccinated and the economy reopens, vehicle numbers are increasing. Already, traffic counts are about 90% of pre-pandemic levels. We anticipate congestion to quickly return as people resume commuting to work and school.
Congestion impacts the 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 to make seismic upgrades.
I-5 and I-205 carry most of the freight in the region; these major freight routes experience the highest levels of congestion and unreliable travel. 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. Transportation system improvements take several years to plan and implement. Tolling could start as early as 2024.
Tolls could start as early as 2024 on the I-205 corridor. We started an environmental review and analysis for tolling I-205 on the Abernethy and the Tualatin River Bridges in Clackamas County in early 2020, with a final decision expected in 2022.
For the Regional Mobility Pricing Project, which includes I-5 and other sections of I-205 in Portland metro area, we are evaluating options to identify where tolling would begin and end. We anticipate completing this initial analysis by early 2022 and then conducting a more extensive environmental review in 2022 and 2023. The results of this analysis will inform the start of tolling on these corridors.
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.
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 all concepts under evaluation assume the new bridge will be tolled. (For more information, go to interstatebridge.org.) Any tolls on the new bridge will be integrated into the tolling concept for I-5 so that users will not be over charged 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
the Interstate Bridge Replacement Project and the Oregon Toll Program are well
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 outcomes and 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. 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 fee, typically implemented along with transit and other multimodal 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, 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.
Congestion pricing – through variable rate tolling -- is a proven tool to manage congestion with approximately 40 congestion pricing projects in operation across the country.
The short answer is “yes.” Because we have dual goals, we are working to
identify the toll rate that minimizes congestion, minimizes negative rerouting
to local streets and maximizes the travel benefits for toll payers and local
street users while generating revenue for infrastructure improvements. A
facility with too low of a toll is congested. A facility with too high of a toll
leads to negative rerouting to other streets. With a toll that is either too
low or too high, fewer people gain benefits compared to a balanced system.
Congestion pricing (using variable rate tolls) has been shown to be 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 that generate less greenhouse gas emissions such as carpooling, taking public transit, or biking. However, 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 (RTDM) for
our analysis. The RTDM 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 RTDM and Regional Transportation Plan,
our modeling and traffic analysis efforts will be consistent with the analyses
being undertaken by other projects and account for projects already underway or
soon to be initiated in the region.
House Bill 2017 committed hundreds of millions of
dollars in projects to modernize our transportation system and make safety
improvements. 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
congestion come at a high cost to individuals, businesses, and communities. Our
system is vulnerable to a major seismic event. Now is the time to modernize our
regional transportation system and the way we use it. ODOT’s Comprehensive
Congestion Management and Mobility Plan outlines priority projects from HB2017
and other legislative and state priorities. These projects will collectively
improve urban mobility across the Metro region, with tolling as an essential
funding strategy. Projects in the CCMMP include the I-205 Improvements, I-5
Rose Quarter Improvements, Toll Program, Interstate Bridge Replacement, and
Boone Bridge Improvements.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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