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Frequently Asked Questions



Our outdated transportation system requires us to take action and make improvements.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 B​ill 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 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 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 HB2017 projects in the Portland Metro area. Projects that may be funded partially by toll revenue include: ​

  • I-205 Improvements Project, including seismic improvements and the extension of a third lane in each direction.
  • I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project, including highway and multimodal improvements.
  • 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 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 a 7-mile segment of I-205 near the Abernethy Bridge in Clackamas County in early 2020, with a final decision expected in 2023.

For I-5, and elsewhere on I-205 in Oregon, 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 coordinated. ​

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.  ​

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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 oregontolling@odot.state.or.us.​​

   

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