Clackamas County elected official: We gain nothing from unfair tolling plan

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Clackamas County residents and elected officials on Jan. 6 drove their message home about the negative impacts of ODOT’s proposed I-205 tolling plan at the listening session in Gladstone hosted by our legislature’s Special Subcommittee on Transportation Planning.

In two hours of impassioned testimony, we heard concrete examples of how families, employees, employers, students, senior citizens, businesses and entire neighborhoods would suffer from the impacts of tolling — bearing the brunt of the project’s costs through tolls while gaining nothing in return. No third lane of the I-205 to relieve congestion. No added public transit in our underserved areas. No shared revenue to offset the costs of damaged roads from diverted freeway traffic.

The plan seems particularly unfair to Clackamas County business owners still struggling to make up for financial losses they incurred during the pandemic. Adding tolls for employees and customers who must drive to reach their businesses would further erode their profits and make hiring and retention even more difficult.

A lack of public transit options makes car and freeway travel the only alternative for most county residents. One speaker testified that he rode his electric bike from Tualatin to the Gladstone meeting, which took 90 minutes, because it would have taken two hours by public transit.

Asking Clackamas County residents to shoulder the financial burden and impacts of tolling without sharing in the revenues also feels unfair. The gas tax, which costs only 1% to administer, has a 50% state, 30% county, 20% city allocation. Tolling provides no similar revenue-sharing plan, made difficult by its high operating costs. Tolling fees would be wholly shared by ODOT and the (likely out-of-state) company hired to implement and run it.

It also appears that Oregon will be paying for half the cost of widening the I-5 Interstate Bridge, even though 80% of daily commuters and two-thirds of all traffic on the bridge are Washington residents.

Surely there’s a fairer, more Oregon way of resolving this issue.

On Oct. 14, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners voted to support IP-4, the statewide ballot measure that would require a vote of the citizens before tolls can be implemented in Oregon (learn more at votebeforetolls.org).

Join me in asking Gov. Tina Kotek, the legislature and ODOT to go back to the drawing board and evaluate options that do not create diversion, have lower administrative costs and provide more value for the citizens’ hard-earned dollars.

Martha Schrader is a Clackamas County commissioner.

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