Clackamas County Commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution urging state and federal officials to require "an updated and thorough evaluation" of the impact on I-205 of traffic diversion due to tolling on the proposed Columbia River Crossing (CRC).
The resolution calls on state and federal legislators to require a "systemwide approach" to the CRC including a plan to minimize the anticipated traffic congestion along I-205 in Oregon before approving any tolling plan for the CRC.
Traffic congestion is already commonplace along portions of I-205, especially as the highway narrows from the Abernethy Bridge in Oregon City to Stafford Road. Some estimates show that traffic congestion would increase as drivers change their routes to avoid the tolling that is proposed for the bridge that would connect Portland and Vancouver.
A recent analysis indicated these diversions could cause severe traffic gridlock along I-205 as early as 2022.
Commissioners unanimously expressed concern that placing tolls on the CRC would create increased congestion along I-205, but stopped short of opposing the project.
"This is not an anti-CRC vote," said Chair John Ludlow. "This is a pro-Clackamas County vote."
Ludlow said he opposed tolling I-205 as an alternative. "There is no better way to send businesses away from Clackamas County."
"I'm glad the conversation has finally moved to where it needs to be, to the legitimate question of capacity throughout the region, "said Commissioner Martha Schrader. "It's about capacity and diversions, not being for or against a particular project. If we don't fix these transportation problems, our economic development will choke."
Expanding capacity for those stretches of I-5 and I-205 in Clackamas County and advocating for funding to do so are among the County's top legislative priorities.
"We need to take congestion and jobs seriously," said Commissioner Paul Savas. "It's of critical importance to address congestion and congestion is everywhere."
"Transit is not the solution – it might be a small portion of it, but it won't help freight traffic, "he said.
"It's not okay to have congestion and we have to dispel the notion that it is."
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