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The Regional Mobility Pricing Project will evaluate congestion pricing (using variable-rate tolls) to manage congestion and raise revenue to help fund construction of approved congestion-relief transportation projects.
Our outdated transportation system requires us to take action and make improvements.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, the 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.
Tolls can help manage congestion and provide a more reliable trip by encouraging drivers to consider other travel options or times of travel. A large change in trip making isn't needed for significant benefits. Even a small decrease in the number of people trying to get on the highway will have travel time benefits for those who can't modify their trip.
In addition, funding for seismic, safety, climate and congestion improvements has not kept pace with inflation. Tolls are one tool to fund improvements in our transportation system.
ODOT is committed to using system-wide congestion pricing on I-5 and I-205 through variable rate tolling and consider it to be a vital tool to manage traffic demand in the Portland metro area.
ODOT will consider variable-rate tolls to manage congestion and raise revenue to help fund construction of approved transportation projects that further reduce congestion.
The starting and ending points for variable rate tolling on I-5 and I-205 will be determined through the planning process in 2021 and 2022. We will engage agency partners and the community to narrow the best regional options for I-5 and I-205 to study in a formal environmental review starting in 2022.
Our goal is to give travelers better options. If they choose to pay a toll on I-5 or I-205, our intent is they could travel 45 miles an hour on average, even during rush hour.
We are working to identify a balanced toll rate that improves traffic flow on the highway and local streets while generating revenue for transportation improvements. A toll that is too low won't manage congestion well. A toll that is too high leads to too many highway drivers using local streets instead. With a balanced toll more people benefit from improved travel on the highway and in the region overall. Using different toll rates over the course of the day helps achieve this balance. This concept is known as congestion pricing using variable- rate tolls.
Oregon's House Bill 2017, also known as Keep Oregon Moving, directed the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) to develop a proposal for tolling on I-5 and I-205 to reduce congestion as part of a suite of transportation investments throughout the state for roadway improvements, transit service enhancements and bicycle and pedestrian safety upgrades.
The OTC and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) conducted the Portland Metro Area Value Pricing Feasibility Analysis to study how and where tolls could be applied. Substantial public input and a Policy Advisory Committee informed the final recommendations.
In December of 2018, the OTC submitted a proposal to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) outlining the findings of the feasibility analysis and seeking approval to continue the process of implementing tolls on I-5 and I-205. FHWA provided guidance to move into the next phase of evaluation and study on tolls.
In 2020, stakeholders commented on the I-205 Toll Project and stated the need for a comprehensive approach to tolling, but expressed concerns about fairness, equity, climate and diversion. To address these concerns, we expanded our approach to consider regional tolling on I-5 and portions of I-205 not included in the I-205 Toll Project, consistent with the long-term vision of the identified in the Value Pricing Feasibility Analysis.
Start and end points for tolls on the I-5 and I-205 corridors will be defined as part of the technical and environmental analysis. This will include:
Learn more about tolls.
ODOT seeks extensive public and stakeholder involvement to inform project goal setting, development, and equity and mobility strategies.
We have planned multiple strategies to ensure the Oregon Transportation Commission and ODOT staff hear from community members in the Portland metro area including Southwest Washington before making decisions on alternatives to study for regional tolling equity and mobility strategies and, in the future, toll policies and rates.
Planned strategies include:
The process to implement a toll program requires substantial analysis, public input, construction, testing and driver education before the system can be operational. Early planning for regional tolling started in 2021.
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